Ways to Balance Collaboration and Productivity
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We are taking on too many collaborations.
That's what Rob Cross discovered after spending more than 20 years studying outstanding (and low) performance in effective organizations. “We’re too eager to jump into, or be dragged into, active collaborations that might run better without us and that burn up our valuable time and energy,” he writes in his new book Beyond Collaboration Overload. And collaboration overload isn't just about the meetings that crowd our calendars; it also includes the unending emails, Slacks, reports, and tasks that each new project generates.
Recognizing the desires, needs, sentiments, and expectations that lead us to take on too much is an important step toward reducing the overload. Cross examines the most prevalent and how we might combat them.
Trigger #1: A desire to assist others
People are surprised by this trigger because assisting others is a basic principle of one of the most well-established management styles. However, what appears to be a positive can actually become a negative.
What you can do: When you agree to collaborate too early or too frequently, you risk becoming a target for ever-expanding requests that suffocate you and hinder you from accomplishing your larger goals. Develop an understanding of why people flock to your door. Is it because you stand for the path of least resistance? If that's the case, practice saying no. Remember: It assists others in becoming self-sufficient. Change your focus from getting joy from helping to teaching people how to solve their own difficulties.
Trigger #2: The desire to be prominent or recognized for competence
Many of us believe that our role is to constantly enter into talks and provide our expertise in order to gain prestige. Others have come to expect this, so they have slowed down to await our involvement. As requests build up, we wind up driving work back to ourselves.
However, it is thought that the most effective collaborators do not derive their feeling of purpose and meaning from showcasing their successes or attempting to gain prestige. They get it instead by developing others and positioning them to be respected for their own abilities.
What you can do: Don't look for prestige in your previous experience and knowledge. Allow yourself to let go of old, known ways of interacting so that you can grow as a leader who allows the team to take ownership and engage autonomously.
Trigger #3: Concern about being labeled a poor performer or colleague
We often say yes so everyone can see how capable and responsive we are. Most of us don't want to be viewed as hesitant when we receive demands from our superiors or others.
What you can do: You may be scared that saying no would have repercussions later, but there is a limit to how much you can manage.
Instead of "yes" or "no," offer options, such as "What order would you like me to complete these in?" Make your capability and capacity, as well as the amount of demands, transparent. Then, ask the individual to explore their genuine needs and see if there is another method to complete the request.