DR. DEB MASHEK is a seasoned business advisor, professor, higher education administrator, and national nonprofit executive. She draws on her deep experience as a relationship researcher and collaboration facilitator in her new book, Collabor(h)ate, to provide insights on how to make workplace collaborations less painful and more productive.

Previously, Dr. Mashek was a Full Professor of social psychology at Harvey Mudd College and was named one of the Top 35 Women in Higher Education by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.


Tips for loving your collaboration

There are many ways to work together on a collaboration continuum, including:

  1. Exchanging information – transactional
  2. Coordination – altering activities to meet a shared goal
  3. Cooperation – sharing resources
  4. Collaboration – learning from each other to enhance each other’s capacity to meet a goal

Environmental components that support collaboration include assessing:

  1. relationship quality: how good or bad is my relationship with each individual.
  2. interdependence: to what extent are my outcomes contingent on your behaviors – and vice versa. How can we coordinate our work to have positive outcomes.

It is everyone’s responsibility to build a collaborative environment, and Dr. Mashek suggests bringing a collaborative mindset to work. Consider training in how to do this and hiring Chief Collaboration Officers to help develop skill sets and advocate for professional development.

ORGANISATIONAL BEHAVIOR:  make it possible, easy, normative, rewarding (and maybe required). There are levers you can push to activate each of those actions.

  • Have we been thoughtful about how structure, measure, and reward work?
  • Do we have an inclusive process in place?
  • Is this together work still meeting the interests of the people involved?

INDIVIDUAL BEHAVIOR: Some people have more or less collaborative behavior ingrained in them, and behavior is a function of the person and the environment. When you show up to do your work, are you bringing a collaborative mindset? Consider training in how to do this.

When to start or end a collaboration

Four criteria for continuing/starting a collaboration:

  1. Are the goals of the collaboration aligned with our interests or needs? If not, say no.
  2. Ask yourself, “am I able to contribute meaningfully, and do I have the capacity?”. Just because you’re invited, it doesn’t mean you have to join.
  3. Are the others able to contribute meaningfully and have the capacity?
  4. Are the resources appropriate for the scale and scope for the work needed?

Explore your own collaboration

To explore where you can improve your own collaboration, Dr. Mashek recommends a “free writing” exercise. At the top of a piece of paper, write down “What are my thoughts and feelings about workplace/community/church/etc. collaboration?” Set a timer for 6 minutes and just write down your attitudes, beliefs, assumptions, habits, and mindsets. After 6 minutes, go back through and circle your feelings (both positive and negative) and explore your assumptions. Get coaching and training for anything you struggle with.


Recommended collaboration resources


The fabulous Miro, a virtual whiteboard, has sponsored this podcast episode. Visit miro.com/superpowers to get your three free whiteboards today.

Miro is an infinite online whiteboard where you can visualize every idea, project, or workflow with the help of ready-made templates and tools. It’s built for teams to feel like they’re sitting side-by-side, even working in different places.


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