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:
- Exchanging information – transactional
- Coordination – altering activities to meet a shared goal
- Cooperation – sharing resources
- Collaboration – learning from each other to enhance each other’s capacity to meet a goal
Environmental components that support collaboration include assessing:
- relationship quality: how good or bad is my relationship with each individual.
- 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:
- Are the goals of the collaboration aligned with our interests or needs? If not, say no.
- 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.
- Are the others able to contribute meaningfully and have the capacity?
- 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
- Collabor(h)ate: How to build incredible collaborative relationships at work
- Explore the Mashek Matrix
- Sign up for Dr. Mashek’s One Simple Tip newsletter
- Collaboration Overload (book) by Rob Cross
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