You’re working hard and want to win. So do your co-workers. You think, “we’re all on the same team, so why does everything we do seem to sabotage collaboration?”
Ironically, it’s usually the well-meaning, high-achievers that inadvertently sabotage collaboration.
When you’re that focused on winning, it’s tough to remember that the competition isn’t in the guy in the left Zoom window, it’s mediocrity.
If you’re a manager of rock star managers who are all driving one another crazy, start by ensuring you have truly interdependent goals, and eliminating stack ranks that pit peers against one another.
Much of the time when collaboration breaks down, it’s because everyone is playing the game they’ve been told to win—which actually is a zero-sum game. If your structure says I have to lose for you to win, don’t expect your high-performers to collaborate.
Beyond that, we’ve found the next best way to jump-start collaboration is to make it safe to talk about what’s sabotaging it and what to do instead.
9 Mistakes that Sabotage Collaboration
So if you’re struggling with your peers, or have a team of managers who like one another well enough, but are competing instead of collaborating, try addressing these common mistakes that sabotage collaboration.
See what resonates and talk about a path forward.
It might surprise you how quickly people fess up, “Oh, that’s me. I’m definitely the guy with unbridled tenacity.”
1. Thinking Your View is THE View
When everyone is heads-down focused on getting things done, it’s easy to see lose sight of other people’s perspectives.
We see it all the time. HR sees compliance training as the most important thing—with lots of good reasons. Sales thinks HR has lost their mind to even consider doing training at a time like this. Customer service needs sales to stop making promises they can’t deliver on.
Everyone’s right, everyone’s frustrated, and everyone’s finding it hard to accomplish their most important priorities.
2. Over-advocating for the Home Team
Of course, advocating for, and defending your team, is generally a good characteristic. Your team wants to know you have their backs. It’s also important to keep a realistic and balanced perspective.
Sometimes the best person for that coveted special assignment isn’t your box nine candidate. Sometimes it’s YOUR team that screwed things up and the best next step is to apologize, not defend. And yes, sometimes the bigger bonus needs to go to the guy on the other team who knocked it out of the park—even though your team has been working hard too.
3. Hoarding Talent
When you’ve spent significant time developing your team, it can be difficult to let them go to another team or department—even if it’s in their best interest, or for the greater good of the organization. After all, who wants to be the farm team for the rest of the company? But when you keep talent to yourself, you limit opportunities for your people—and overall performance suffers.
How can we encourage more collaboration for talent development and staffing?
4. Shutting Down Ideas
In our Courageous Cultures research, 67% of the respondents operated under the notion that “this is the way we’ve always done it.” And those same managers just as likely to shut down ideas from a peer.
5. Unbridled Tenacity
When you know you’re “right,” it can be tough to figure out how to also be effective. When you disagree in front of an audience, particularly if that audience is your boss, even if you’re right, your peers may feel like you’ve thrown them under the bus.
6. Not Spending Enough Time Together
It’s easy to under-invest in coworker relationships. Leaders tend to focus on their team and boss first and hope the peer relationships will evolve naturally. Just like any human interaction, coworker relationships take time and energy to grow properly. In addition, peer relationships are naturally tricky since you’re often competing in a stack rack, for resources or for senior leader attention.
7. Not Asking For Help
When you know your coworkers are slammed, it’s hard to ask for help. But if no one asks, how do you know how to be most helpful?
8. Not Acknowledging One Another’s Contribution
Okay, suppose they did help you. And now you’re getting praise for your great work, but forget to mention their support. Now they’re ticked off.
9. Withholding Best Practices
Often high-performers will share ideas and best practices when you ask for them, but are too busy (or competitive) to do so proactively.
Or they don’t share because they don’t want to look braggy. Meanwhile, people are wasting time spinning their wheels because they’re unaware that a coworker has already figured it out.
Talking about these common problems that sabotage collaboration (even in the abstract) can help you find a better path forward to better teamwork to take everyone’s performance to the next level.