3 Reasons To Stop Being So Damn Collaborative

stop collaborating(Published in Huffington Post)

When we think of the best teams, many people aim for collaboration as the most desirable trait in the members and the leaders. While a collaborative approach targets the best win/win scenario that everyone can hope for, there are times where leaders need to step away and adopt a more directive stance.

If we are naturally collaborative, we may have a hard time taking over and controlling the situation.

Here are 3 times when we need to be aware that collaboration is not always the panacea the Buddhists monks may be alluding to.

  1. Deadline

When we have a time constraint and people are discussing and over-analysing a problem, sometimes a leader must step forward and demand a decision. They may have to state that he/she will make the decision for the group.

After all, dithering or wasting precious time can create a productivity loss, and eventually, depending on the situation, a company profit loss.

  1. Consensus failure

There are times when priorities are divided, camps get formed and consensus simply becomes impossible. Sometimes the group is simply too big to have everyone feel heard and their needs respected. So conflict becomes a difficult dynamic to contain.

Other times, some members may have attached themselves to a specific outcome having little or no willingness to see the other points of view. Productivity suffers and frustrations can increase and spiral the stress unnecessarily.

When we’ve hit an impasse, sometimes a truce needs to be called for a cooling down period. A leader may ask a senior member to create the best decision while taking into account the information already produced by both sides of the group.

  1. Disruptive person

In order for the collaborative process to work, all members of the team have to be willing and able to contribute honestly while feeling heard and respected.

If one person is affected by stress or affected by personal issues, their resilience may be compromised and they may be “touchy” and need to “win their point”.  This person is currently not operating at their best selves. They are in survival mode which puts them in the fight or flight mode. This can compromise the group’s advancement.

Or they could just naturally disagree with things out of their control. Some people react to everything that isn’t their idea as something that has to be proven. They say “no” to everything before the whole question is even laid out and have an automatic “can’t” button.

If having stated upfront that the group is looking for a collaborative approach has not worked, the impasse may have to be broken by the leader or a senior member.

Whatever the underlying reason, if someone or a side group doubles down, unwilling to budge from their position, collaboration is no longer the priority to those members. Even if they agreed to that approach previously.

After collaboration breaks down

The smart leader who decides to unilaterally make a decision over the team’s head would be wise to give the team an opportunity to grow together from the experience. Otherwise, ill feelings can fester and make future collaborative experiences more difficult to achieve.

A proactive leader will call a meeting to discuss what happened and why a preferred collaborative approach had to be set aside this time. Their goal is to reset for a better team experience in the future.

Here’s an example of how I might run a follow up meeting:

  • Order in a meal that everyone reaches agreement on.
  • Get feedback from all the members as to why the collaboration failed for the project.
  • Validate their feelings and perceptions of the experience.
  • Have the team break down the steps they used in order to agree on the meal you ordered.
  • As a group, agree to a definition of what collaboration is and is not.
  • Brainstorm how to prevent or overcome a breakdown in the future.
  • Put the definition and collaboratively agreed to solution on flip chart paper.
  • Have everyone sign the flip chart.

For the meal, if I’m invited, make it gluten-free. Does that complicate things? 🙂


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