In my rediscovered article Collaboration (“Merlin’s Musings” Scriptmag.com Nov/Dec 2003) Sally Merlin points out that there are two definitions for her title word:
(1) working together AND (2) cooperating with the enemy.
Her early script writing experience led her to understand the value of working together. Producers, directors, actors, investors – all had something to say about THE script. Her acceptance of their input helped her evolve as a writer.
In this article Merlin notes that many writers collaborate using the second definition. They describe the enemy as “those people who tell us what they won’t do and what we have to eliminate from the landscape of our writing that we have so carefully constructed.” In other words, collaborating with the enemy induces resentment and resistance and produces reluctance to change the ideas, the writing and the plot.
I know managers like these scriptwriters! Managers who feel collaboration with their employees is cooperating with the enemy.
“Why should I ask for ideas, when I can just tell them what to do?”
“They may think they know what they are doing, but I’ve been here longer.”
“Talking is a waste of time. Just follow the script.”
“If they just did what they were told, we’d have no problems.”
“We have strict policies and we cannot veer from them, no matter what.”
These are managers from the direct and control school of thought. While direct and control may get results, it often infects employees. Who may feel that they are cooperating with an enemy that never listens. Who may comply to get the job done, but won’t give input. Who will not commit more time or ideas than absolutely required.
Today 85% of our industries are involved in the business of service, where our customers expect convenience, choice, customization, creativity – and control (The Moment of Goof: Customer Service in the Digital Age.) We know that the service business thrives where employees are engaged – that is active participation in developing ideas, providing solutions, taking initiative, and working together toward the common goal. (See WordPress blog Customer Experience Matters for any of the Tempkin surveys.)
Direct and control dominant styled managers need to find value, as Sally Merlin did, in collaborating – not with the enemy – but with their employees. They want to recognize that their employees may experience those 3 R’s — resentment, resistance and reluctance — from lack of collaboration.
In all my team building sessions – collaboration is required homework for participants. Like Sally Merlin, they learn to value what their employees have to say. Surprised comments from some of the participants included:
“My staff came up with tougher deadlines than I would have given them.”
“They were willing to come in after hours to train each other.”
“I was surprised at the number of ideas that they came up with.”
“My boss couldn’t understand why my team improved results so quickly!”
“It took much less time to implement changes than we had planned on.”
Collaboration may take time – but the payoff for managers and employees is commitment to their goals and success. For customers this collaboration means exceptional service – and winning their commitment.