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Are We Collaborating, Or Do You Just Need Me To Do As I’m Told?


Robby

“Truly, this is the only question I have. Are we collaborating on this project, or do you need me to do what I’m told without asking questions?”

That’s what I have wanted to ask many times on many projects over the years. It’s not just with one employer or with one client. But in any case, the word “collaboration” is thrown around often when people don’t mean that at all.

Teamwork and Collaboration
© Flickr User Unhindered by Talent

What does it mean to work together? People playing the game tug of war are all working hard at the same time, but they are not actually collaborating. Too often our relationships at work are like this game. We are pulling and it seems like someone else is pulling in the opposite direction. They may be a colleague or a supervisor, but it’s a wonder we get anything done if we are working at cross purposes.

As with most workplace issues, the answer to this challenge is communication. Instead of the patronizing message I used the opening of this blog post, consider saying the following:

I’m looking forward to working on this project. But before I dive in—are you looking for my feedback and ideas, or do you need me to focus on making progress with the way you’ve described things?

This is a great question to ask because it forces the other person to give a clear response. Either outcome is acceptable. Sometimes, the requirements of the project mean there is no room for discussion. The deadline is too short, or needs are too complicated to explain to someone new.

But often, the project does benefit from collaboration. Often, talking through the issues to figure out why we do it that way will help you be better at your job. And sometimes, you might even discover a better way to do things!

Collaboration is essential in any job. So be sure and use this approach and this word, but only when you mean it.

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About the Blogger: Robby Slaughter is a productivity speaker and expert. He is a principal with a AccelaWork, an Indianapolis consulting firm.

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Wed, July 24 2013 » Corporate Culture, Success Consciousness

2 Responses

  1. Kirsten July 24 2013 @ 4:07 pm

    This is spot-on and incredibly useful. Thanks, Robby, especially for that great little question (and the reminder that the assumption that my perspective and input is wanted is not always correct).

  2. robbyslaughter July 24 2013 @ 9:31 pm

    You bet, Kirsten!

    Come visit us again here sometime!

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