Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Why Collaborating Can Be a Pain -- and What to Do About It

Many of us are being asked to work more collaboratively. That can mean a variety of things, from working with those in other departments or outside partners to the of "play nice and share your toys" kind of thing within your own department.

But does collaboration have a downside? If you look at your inbox right now, you may say, "YES!" Your inbox may be groaning under the load of emails from collaborating partners. In addition, you're being pulled into more and more meetings as a result of collaborative efforts. It's no wonder that 85% of most knowledge workers and leaders are bogged down in email, meetings and phone calls.

So, when, exactly, are you supposed to get your work done?: Sure, collaboration can be great, but it can also be a giant pain.

How can you collaborate more effectively without writing emails at 3 a.m. or sitting in meetings for seven hours a day? Here's some ideas:

  • Be stingy. Collaboration is all about sharing, but you need to guard your time more carefully. For example, if someone wants to talk to you, appoint a specific block of time -- no more than 30 minutes. If you can't get things resolved in that amount of time, the agenda is too broad or unfocused. 
  • Stop emailing. Make it a rule that if you've exchanged more three emails with someone about a certain subject, you stop emailing and get on the phone with that person. It will be much faster and more efficient if you can talk through questions or concerns, rather than just continually kicking the can down the road with endless emails.
  • Be unhelpful. This may sound bad, but it's really a way to stay more focused. Instead of jumping in to help -- without even being asked -- think about whether you're meeting your own goals and objectives. If you've got extra time, it can be rewarding to volunteer to help others. But stay focused on your primary objectives -- post them on your cubicle wall if necessary.
  • Go to a local bar. No, the alcohol won't help you be more efficient. It's really about taking some time to get to know the people you collaborate with, whether that's at a local pub, coffee shop or diner. The more you get to know your collaborating partners, the more efficient you will be at communicating with them and better understand their goals. Without that knowledge, you waste time and effort in trying to get a handle on the other person.

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