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September 21, 2014

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Life is a Team Sport

Seventeen soccer coaches gathered two weeks ago to begin a coaching class to obtain their “D” coaching licenses. I was one of the 17. The coaches, all of whom did not know each other prior to the class, became good friends, colleagues, and mentors to each other over the two-week period. It proved to me once again that life is a team sport.

Although the coaches were from different clubs, leagues, and teams and will be competing against each other soon, the collegiality was great. The coaches rallied around each other to help achieve every participant’s goal of obtaining the “D” license. As I worked closely with many of these fine individuals, I was reminded of working in my office many years ago. It also occurred to me how rare collaboration is in most businesses and I wondered how we could set up situations to foster this high level of collaborative behavior. As I contemplate what occurred during the class and compare it to my early years in the office, I thought of the things that need to be present for such a high level of collaboration to occur.

Common purpose and goals. The fundamental ingredient for highly collaborative work is a common purpose and common goals. As in the case of the coaches, each was there to obtain his license. The coaches were all there to learn the same material to develop the skills to pass the licensing tests. The same can be said for your business or work groups. Focus on a common purpose and set team goals. This should help set the stage for a more collaborative working attitude. If the team can get behind the purpose and goals, there is no doubt in my mind that they will work together to achieve those goals.

I remember several years ago when my company had uncovered the higher-order purpose that bound us to together. Just understanding that there were others in my company hoping to achieve the same things helped open up the dialogue and collaboration.

Need for help from the group. The makeup of the group is important to achieve collaboration. Every one of us has a particular skill or talent. When assembling groups, look to achieve diversity of talent. This way there are more opportunities to bring each person’s talent to the task at hand. Within my coaching class, there was a diversity of ages, playing abilities, and experience. The exercises we were taught taxed our collective energy and thought. It was good for each of us to bring a different perspective to the group as we learned a tremendous amount from each other.

Egos left at home. For true collaboration to occur, people’s egos must not be allowed to get in the way of the end goals of the group. The first day of our coaching class, our instructor asked us to leave our egos at home when we came to the class. He told us that each of us would become a better coach if we could keep our ego from getting in the way of our learning.

The same is true at work. We used to joke at the office of “leaving one’s ego at the door” when coming to work. Putting one’s ego aside helped develop a shorter path to collaboration because it encouraged each individual to listen more and clearly understand how he or she could best help the group.

Ability to learn from others. Even with the ego left at home and the individuals committed to learning from others, many of us have not experienced true collaboration. During my coaching class, it took about half a day for the group to develop the ability to learn from each other. That means developing good listening skills and the ability to translate this listening to action. Most of the coaches in the group were the leaders of their teams and had strong leadership skills. It took time to understand that this was a group of peers and there were things to be learned from everyone.

Similar to work, often we take on the persona of our title. If we are a manager or director, we have been placed in a decision-making capacity and rarely have the opportunity to collaborate. When placed in a group, we have to rekindle our ability to learn from others and demonstrate to the group that we are ready.

Thoughts for consideration:

  • Have you had a recent opportunity to collaborate?
  • What did you bring to the group and what did you take away?

Until next time…

Craig

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