There is no denying that effective collaboration is critical for business success. Especially in the world of training, collaboration is required among executives, business units, the training department and learners to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Whether across the hall or across the ocean, true collaboration relies on having real, constructive conversations to better understand each other and build a foundation of trust. Without trust, the dirty work of suspicion, questioning of motives and mistrust will cripple effective collaboration and derail organizational success.
There is a lot of hype around the term “collaboration,” especially with the rapid growth of social media and technology. In fact, certain tools claim to heighten collaboration just by offering a forum for communication; however, effective collaboration isn’t that simple. It’s not merely about where people collaborate; it’s about how to make effective collaboration happen.
I have been fortunate enough to work with a number of global teams and organizations and help them achieve business success. My experience has given me a deep understanding of what effective collaboration actually looks like, how it can be achieved, why it’s critical, and how to keep it alive.
There are specific requirements for sparking and sustaining efficient and innovative collaboration that will achieve, and even accelerate, business results. Effective collaboration requires uncovering what drives and motivates people and opening a forum of communication based on truly understanding each other. And there is a role that training can actively play in making this happen.
The Natural Default to Mistrust
Our research shows that most people are well intentioned; we have a deep desire to understand the motivations behind people’s words and actions as well as the reasoning for organizational changes. However, without a way to gain a clear understanding of how things will affect us personally, adjustments – such as shifting leadership, or merely the arrival of a new colleague – can bring about suspicion, assumptions and judgments.
It’s easy for individuals and teams – especially when under stress – to default to a place of suspicion and mistrust. This happens because when people don’t understand others’ motives, they tend to get emotional and jump to conclusions. Negative lines of questioning take over and any chance of effective collaboration disintegrates.
As part of the natural hesitation to trust others, people can experience difficulty working on projects with others. Through no fault of their own, people who come from different teams, backgrounds, departments or cultures often have trouble understanding each other, aligning on common goals or simply communicating. HR, training and development executives can help bridge these gaps. Establishing common experiences and common languages as a base to build upon is necessary to prevent this from happening.
Real, Constructive Conversations
Organizations are much more effective, and collaboration is much more successful, when leaders and teams assume positive intent -- which is much easier to do when you know how colleagues are “wired.” Unfortunately, people separated by geography or who may not see eye-to-eye frequently avoid real conversations and often don’t try to work through misunderstandings. Clearly, this negatively impacts teams, departments and even the overall organization.
Positive, constructive communication can override these fundamentally self-preserving elements and instincts from creeping into the workplace; successfully opening the door for effective collaboration.
Real, constructive conversations are steeped in a personal awareness of one’s own motivations and help people generate a better understanding of others. They help people align on common goals, problems and solutions without jumping to conclusions. And, they build a foundation of trust.
How Training Can Help
I often find that there are certain departments and leaders who can pave the path for effective collaboration. While CEOs and project leaders rely heavily on collaboration among their team members, training executives can be change agents. Settings where employees are learning about the culture of the organization can serve as the perfect environments in which to address the need for trust, why to “assume positive intent,” how to ask real questions, the importance of constructive conversations and why trust is valued in the organization.
I encourage training and development executives to consider these questions while preparing training activities that build the platform for effective collaboration:
- How are we helping colleagues understand each other’s personal and professional motivations?
Find ways to understand and explain each person’s drives and motivations so people know where others are coming from and how they are wired. Foster an environment where people can learn each other’s similarities and differences, as well as their needs, talents and vulnerabilities.
- How can the training department help build trust?
Once people better understand each other, they are more likely to build a foundation of trust. Pinpoint times right after employees are hired or facing change; these are great times to step back, explore the level of trust between individuals and facilitate ways to connect. Uncovering common experiences and creating common languages can help bring people together.
- Are “real conversations” happening within the organization and how can you play a role?
If the training department is aware that employees are questioning each other’s motives or misaligned with the organization, it’s imperative to step in. Host forums where people can get their questioned answered, learn more about each other and have their voice heard.
Training executives can – and should – play a considerable role in building trust and fostering collaboration within an organization. Whether in the classroom or during employee onboarding, team building or other activities, remember that your efforts will make an impact and the larger organization will reap the benefits.
Paul Burgess is the founder and CEO of Link-up International.
Written for TrainingIndustry.com