Collaboration: An Imperative in Modern Organizations 

Key Point: Collaboration is no longer a nicety to have. It is vital. Why? Content is exploding and moving so quickly that we simply need each other for the best innovative and sustainable results. It has always been more effective and gratifying to learn as a group (although sometimes frustrating). But today, it is an imperative. 

Effective collaboration needs more than great tools (like Google’s G Suite) and can’t be applied as the latest buzzword in management. It needs practice and a learning framework. This insight comes from  “The ABCs of How We Learn: 26 Scientifically Proven Approaches, How They Work, and When to Use Them.”

The authors recommend the following ingredients to drive effective collaboration:

1. Joint Attention. 

“To collaborate, people need to pay attention to the same thing. Visual attention provides an index of what people are thinking about. If you are looking longingly at an ice-cold beer, it is a good bet that you are thinking about an ice-cold beer.” PS that’s why people working on the same doc together, seeing common info on a screen, and/or seeing each other by video, helps promote collaboration.

2. Listening. 

“Thoughts can be much more complex than an eye gaze. It also helps to hear what people are thinking. A common situation is that people refuse to listen to one another because they are too busy talking or they just discount other’s ideas.” In our organization we teach everyone the simple listening model: Connect, Understand, then… Act.

3. Sharing. 

“Sharing operates on two levels: Sharing common goals and sharing ideas. First, if people do not share some level of common goal, they will collaborate to cross-purposes. Second, if nobody shares ideas, collaboration will not go very far.”

4. Coordinating. 

“Have you ever had the experience of a group discussion, in which you just cannot seem to get your timing right? Either you always interrupt before the speaker is done, or someone else grabs the floor exactly when the other person finishes, before you jump in. Collaboration requires a great deal of turn-taking coordination.” 

5. Perspective Taking. 

“A primary reason for collaborating is that people bring different ideas to the table. The first four ingredients—joint attention, listening, sharing, and coordinating—support the exchange of information. The fifth ingredient is to understand why people are offering the information they do.” Some great thinkers believe the ability to change perspective involves a higher IQ.

The point of the five collaboration ingredients above, is that organizations need to be mindful about how each of the skills exist in their populations. Tools like the G Suite help because they naturally reinforce many of the points above. However, it is important to be intentional about the individual behaviors as well. All five are ideally present and alive. The more advanced we are in each, the higher the collaboration impact.

Character Moves: 

  1. How effective of a collaborator are you? Are you self aware of these five ingredients? What score out of 10 would you give yourself? 
  2. Are you proactive on the five ingredients? That’s a personal brand differentiator.  

Big five collaboration in The Triangle,

Lorne,

One Millennial View: Fellow Millennials: If you truly think that collaboration will negatively impact your individual goals, then you may seriously be in a rare, toxic atmosphere. You’re better off risking being a company player than a non-participant that has seen too many movies where a main character gets burned. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

 

Invest in the Permanent You

Key Point: Invest mightily in your permanent skills and strengths. Today, my team has lead 5,000+, engaged and committed team members to the beginning of something we call “Work Reimagined.” In some ways it feels like we all walked into an Olympic stadium, after months of training, and collectively crowded up to the starting line of the marathon, waiting for the gun. We are all working with a completely new tool set – Google’s G-Suite. We promised team members that they would become richer for the experience, and I believe that. Of course, these G Suite tools will continually evolve and learning how to best use them will require constant learning. However, my last comment notwithstanding, I believe we will deliver on our promise. Why? Because the G Suite advances what I believe are the really “hard skills,” and the ones most irreplaceable, regardless of changes in the technology, economy or industry. 

In a recent New York Times article, LinkedIn identified a number of currently in-demand skills. (And yes, if you have content knowledge in these areas, you are in a very hot hiring market). Employers want and really need the following skills now: 

New “HARD [temporary] SKILLS:

Cloud Computing Expertise.

Data Mining and Statistical Analysis.

Smartphone App Development.

Data Storage Engineering and Management.

User Interface Design.

Network Security Expertise.

Machine Learning/Development.

Robotics.”

However, companies are realizing that they can train (as well as recruit) for these new “hard” (temporary) skills, so they are also focusing on hiring for so-called “soft” (permanent, meta skills). I believe these are the ACTUAL “hard” skills. The following IBM model is a micro-example: A company searches for people with great soft/permanent skills, and trains them to learn the so called “hard skills:”

“In the last two years, nearly a third of IBM’s new hires in Rocket Center (makes fighter plane composites applying cloud computing, cyber security, application development) and in a few other locations, have not had four-year college degrees. IBM has jointly developed curriculums with the local community college, as well as one-year and two-year courses aligned with the company’s hiring needs…”

The really “hard” soft skills are difficult to train for. Why? Learning each one is very individual and time consuming. As well, these skills or attributes are on a continuum. One can continuously invest and get better at applying them over time. If one has a well-developed capability on these individually and as a connected system, it becomes a great permanent investment.

The really “hard” “SOFT [permanent] SKILLS:

Communication [connect/understand/act].

Curiosity.

Adaptability.

Teamwork/Collaboration.

Empathy/Compassion.

Energy Management.

Open-Mindedness/Perspective.

Inventiveness.

Self-Accountability/Respect/Abundance.”

So, back to the G Suite… Learning how to embrace the G Tools as a system involves investing in each of the really hard, soft and permanent skills noted above. While we fully connect and apply the entire tool set, we all will sharpen each of our soft skills and hence make each of us more valuable. Can I guarantee that? No. But I genuinely believe the new “soft skills” are truly the ones to continuously invest in. If you can adapt and change to keen, new, (albeit temporary) content/technical skills AND build on top of growing your soft permanent skills, well, you’re golden. 

Character Moves: 

1. Continuously invest in the “hard/soft” skills above, and you will adapt and always be valuable regardless of the exponential change coming our way. 

“Hard” Soft skills in The Triangle,

– Lorne

One Millennial View: When I think about it, if I’ve ever heard my friends complain about co-workers or colleagues, it’s not the “hard” skills that anyone is lacking… It’s the inability to mesh on a “soft” skill level that makes work become a miserable destination versus somewhere they love showing up and excelling at. It seems you can be hired for your “hard” skills, but you’ll become very hard to replace thanks to excellent “soft” skills.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Become a Connection Master

Key Point: How many connection points do you have with people you want to advance a relationship with? How do you begin your communication with anyone? Do you start at a connection point and go from there? 

The first time I went to Seoul, South Korea, I was there to work on a consortium between three U.S. companies and a local Korean partner. Shortly after our plane touched down, we gathered with our teams in a hotel meeting room. Our Korean hosts were gracious and well organized. A team of four to five subject matter experts accompanied each CEO. The president of the Korean company then announced without any advanced notice, that the working teams were going to immediately work on our proposal (due at the end of the week), but the plans were different for the four CEOs. Hmm… Ok. So the four of us were shuffled off to an awaiting car, which to our surprise took us to one of Seoul’s most famous spas. No swimming trunks required. Oh, geez. 

Within an hour, we were stripping down to our birthday suits, led from one spa pool to another (some with unusual color… like green tea). This included different types of spa stations (hot rocks, etc.). The four of us knew each other to various degrees from previous meetings and phone calls, however, our Korean hosts made sure we now knew exactly what we looked like without our CEO “uniforms;” just four dumpy, wrinkled, old guys sitting naked in a pool… The last one with water temp at 59 degrees F; our final indignity. (I apologize if this image is causing readers nausea, lol). In retrospect, the strategy of our Korean hosts, while very uncomfortable at first, was quite clever. We needed to be transparent, open, and didn’t have much time to get to a trusting relationship. Getting naked together, while highly unusual for us westerners, helped us get there in a hurry. I wish I could tell you we won the bid. Unfortunately, the RFP (request for proposal) was withdrawn before we could fully compete. However, the four companies had become a team of one very quickly, and I liked our chances if we could have presented our bid. 

Having an emotional connection point is something we teach and encourage as a gateway process in all team and individual learning/development in our company. With anyone we want to advance our relationship (customer, teammate, outside stakeholder), we encourage finding a connection point BEFORE getting into content. It might be as simple as exchanging a smile, remembering names, common circumstances, etc. This applies whether face-to-face, video, voice or text. We want people to connect FIRST. The message is, “I see you,” and “I want you to see me.” After establishing genuine contact, we can really begin to listen to each other. 

Character Moves:

  1. Establish an intentional connection strategy with everyone you want to advance a relationship with. As a real life metaphor, try applying this with strangers that you share the road with. When you see the other car trying to switch lanes, why not graciously let them in front of you? Your action says, “I see you.” How does it work for you when you ignore them, or worse? Present them with your middle finger?
  2. Watch the very best connectors; They have a smile, eye contact, a way of finding a common ground, even when it’s something benign as the weather. The very best are masters regardless of the medium. They remember details, and invest in the bridges between you and them. And we need those bridges to “walk back and forth” on. How else do we begin to really listen and empathize with each other if we do not have a connection point and some emotional place to start from?
  3. The very best communicators are humble and confident enough to recognize the need to advance all relationships, including with those in less advantageous situations and even so called “enemies.” A connection point, however small, begins a bridge and where there is a bridge, however fragile, there is the hope of getting to a better place. 

Master connector in The Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: When I recently heard that temperatures in Arizona would reach around the 120 degree F mark, a part of me got a little jealous. That type of heat, however miserable, brings a connection between you and everyone else experiencing it. When you burn your hand on a steering wheel, and when your ChapStick liquefies, you can silently pass anyone else in a parking lot and you each give each other the “holy $#!*, is it hot” look. It’s a cool experience, and then whatever meeting you may have with the sweet, sweet relief of air conditioning will automatically be so much better.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Leaders That Are Takers Suck

Key Point: Some leaders are just lousy at sharing winning situations. And the higher they get in terms of position, the more scarce-minded they can become. These same leaders are often first class at laying blame at your feet if things aren’t going well. Or, they like to play it both ways; there to confirm how they were behind you if you win, but ready to abandon you if things go wrong. That strategy is often part of what’s helped them survive corporate politics. Ultimately, if someone is too “successful,” they need to show who’s boss. They can even become petty when they feel threatened, and will put you down in subtle or not so subtle ways. They have to be “alpha.”

The leaders I admire most and genuinely inspire me, generously give and share recognition for winning situations and ideas. They pay attention to catalysts; people who spark an idea that becomes a big thing. They understand that success has many authors, while failure is orphaned. And, who steps up to accept team or individual failure? It’s the strong and giving leader. They have the confidence to accept full responsibility, and give their teams or individuals necessary air cover. It’s leaders like that who become revered. Why? Because you can’t B.S. the troops. The team sees all and knows who contributes what. And they love transparent, authentic, genuine people in charge. Scarce-minded leaders often unknowingly become addicted to adulation and counter intuitively seem to become more and more convinced that their glorified success is almost exclusively of their own self-made brilliance. Their ego starts believing in their “press release.” Knowingly or unknowingly, they surround themselves with “yes people” and “adoring fans.” They also do not realize it’s the beginning of their demise. 

In your career, recognize that often the depth and specifics of your contributions will go unnoticed and/or be under appreciated. Even though you deserve “credit,” or at least a tip of the hat acknowledgement, it may not come. In fact, historians may rewrite the story of what really happened in ways that fully underrepresent the value you bring. As hard as this is to accept, it is likely to happen more than once. How you reframe these circumstances is very important. If not, it is easy to feel under appreciated, and eventually, even bitter.

Character Moves: 

  1. The most important validation of your contribution has to mostly come from you. Be honest and generous with yourself. Celebrate your many wins. Try not to be too disappointed when others swoop in to take or leverage your ideas as their own. You (and most often, the important people around you) know very well the contribution you’ve made. Relish that. 
  2. Be known as a generous giver and person who expands and shares the slices of the pie. Cover hard for your team if you happen to have a screw up. You and they, as I often note are, “very much worth it.”

No takers in The Triangle,

– Lorne

One Millennial View: I love the honesty in this. It’s not only ok that acknowledgement will often not come. For me, it’s very ok. You know what feels better than a “good job” from the big boss? Looking at your equals and knowing they know darn well who’s performing, who’s not, and then moving forward to get better and accomplish more. If we want to get “really Millennial” about this, how about this analogy? No one’s thrilled with the person who takes a gym selfie and posts it online for “likes.” But everyone is encouraged to appreciate their own results and have enough confidence to realize people notice, even if no one says anything.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Lorne Rubis

Lorne Rubis

The constant in Lorne’s diverse career is his ability to successfully lead organizations through significant change. At US West, where he served as a Vice President / Company Officer, Lorne was one of only seven direct reports ...
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The Character Triangle Companion

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The Character Triangle

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Character Triangle

Our character is exclusively ours. We define it by how we think and what we do. I believe that acting with Character is driven by what I call the Character Triangle.

What, exactly, is the Character Triangle (CT)?

The CT describes and emphasizes three distinct but interdependent values:

Be Accountable: first person action to make things better, avoiding blame.
Be Respectful: being present, listening, looking again, focusing on the process.
Be Abundant: generous in spirit, moving forward, minimizing the lack of.

Read more about the Character Triangle

 

Be Accountable

Be Respectful

Be Abundant

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