Advanced Collaboration

Written by Grant Heinrich, 14 May 2020

The Challenge

Often experts have a more introverted nature. While this might have suited the acquisition of their technical skills, ensuring that their advice is taken up, or that they influence a variety of different stakeholders to adopt their recommendations, commit to new disciplines and so on requires advanced collaboration skills such as influencing, relating, listening, initiating and effectively conducting challenging conversations. Where experts are under-developed in such skills, they can end up frustrated at their apparent lack of influence. They can rub people up the wrong way and end up marginalised. Their advice and recommendations, though intellectually sound, can go unheeded to this disadvantage of the expert him/herself, to his/her function, to stakeholders and to the organisation overall. Despite unhelpful beliefs to the contrary, anyone can develop advanced collaboration skills by applying themselves – and practising tried and tested tools and frameworks. Experts are often surprised at how quickly they develop proficiency once they have some tools and strategies to work with. It turns out that effective behaviours need not be an elusive mystery that technically minded people lack the “software” for. In our experience, experts are quick learners in this area and can achieve radical breakthroughs quite swiftly.

The Content

In this pod session, your team member discussed and explored with their fellow podsters:

  • Participants will examine nine different influencing tactics – exploring their instinctive go to tactics, reflecting on their relative effectiveness, identifying alternative tactics that might get them breakthroughs in stakeholder relationships where their efforts to date have not delivered optimal outcomes. The goal is that they leave the session ready to try out some alternative ways of influencing key stakeholders and situations core to their everyday work.

  • Listening is a critical collaboration skill. Few people have been trained in how to do it. Experts might be more accustomed to providing a definitive point of view and expecting that others simply accept it without protest. This assumes that everyone is operating from a purely rational orientation to the world. In order to foster buy in and others’ willingness to collaborate, it can be necessary to initially hold back from pushing one’s own ideas or agenda and take the time to help others feel heard and understood. This takes both discipline as well as technique. As with many other modules, there is considerable practice of skills such as paraphrasing, responding without judgement, resisting the instinct to solve, to disagree, reflecting others’ feelings, etc – all in pursuit of building trust and a spirit of partnership.

  • One of the most important skills for just about everybody in all kinds of roles is the ability to initiate and successfully conduct courageous conversations. Most people instinctively avoid conflicts and, as a result, skirt around issues, bring them up so indirectly that they achieve no cut through or over-compensate and burn good will by going in “barrels blazing”. One of the other key skills in this module is how to plan an emotionally intelligent opening of a challenging conversation and then navigating the anticipated exchanges through to a successful conclusion.

The Punchlines

  • Experts tend to instinctively seek to influence others by resorting to rational persuasion. After all, they generally have well informed reasons for arriving at the conclusions they wish others to buy into. They are often shocked to discover that though this is one of the most common methodologies deployed in the workplace, it also has quite a poor success rate when it comes to dissolving resistance and fostering buy-in. Other common – and problematic – tactics include “legitimising” whereby an expert elicits the formal authority of senior leaders to oblige others to comply. As with rational persuasion, this tends to foster significant resistance and NEVER results in others’ commitment and ownership. As a result of examining a range of options and their associated impact data, most experts come away with a plan to explore becoming inspirational and consultative so as to foster significantly more buy in.

  • Listening requires patience – something that seems increasingly in short supply. Most of us feel instincts to cut to the chase and solve the problem and move onto the next thing. The desire to do so can be legitimately well motivated – and, as experts, we may feel that this exactly what people expect (or should expect) and need from us. But, not being willing to first fully hear someone out, before affording them the benefits of our (supposed superior) wisdom can leave them feeling unsupported, viewed as less worthy, intelligent or capable. We might inadvertently come across as arrogant, uncaring, inflexible (opinionated) – all of which serve to reduce the quality of our relationships and our influence with others. Participants learn to utilise empathic responses before seeking to convey their own ideas, their disagreement, etc

  • If approached with emotional intelligence (balancing courage and consideration), even challenging subject matters where people often find themselves unable to resolve tensions, strong differences of opinion, etc can be artfully handled and progress through to mutually acceptable outcomes. Participants are provided with world class tools and frameworks to practice in session and then take back with them into their real world challenging relationships.