Learn from Obama’s Five Collaboration Mistakes — Don’t Repeat Them

A recent article over on the Harvard Business Review blogs addressed Obama’s Five Collaboration Mistakes that are representative of many of the common collaboration mistakes that prevent cooperation efforts from ever bearing fruit. If you understand them, you can take steps to prevent them, and have a much better chance of seeing results from your efforts.

Use the Right Language with Rank-and-File

Don’t do like his Chief of Staff and call them F@cking Retarded. They might not have your understanding of an issue, but it’s not their fault, it’s yours. You should be educating them, at their level, so they can see the full glory of your vision and, hopefully, get behind it. As per this experiment at Standford, the choice of language has a considerable impact on whether your people will cooperate or compete. It’s really up to you.

Collaborate, Don’t Delegate

Yes, it might be their job, but, as a leader, you need to stay actively involved, be there to help when they need, or want it, and give credit where credit is due.

Reach Out to Opponents

If you truly want to succeed, you need to make your most vocal opponent your biggest proponent. And that’s not as ludicrous as it sounds. Usually when someone reacts strongly to a change in strategy or technology, it’s because they believe that the new strategy or technology is not addressing one or more critical requirements that they need to do their jobs effectively on a daily basis. If you can show them that you understand their issues and that the new strategy addresses their issues, though possibly in a different, but better, manner, you can often win them over. Once they see that you’re trying to help them, they might just get behind you and help you win over the silent opposition.

Be Prepared for Hard Compromises

Sometimes, as pointed out by Nilofer Merchant’s The New How, that I reviewed here on SI a few weeks ago, hard compromise have to be made. You need to be ready, or risk having your project stalled indefinitely as key stakeholders will refuse to get on board if you’re not willing to concede to at least some of their demands.

Create a Compelling, Common Goal

Sometimes you have to shoot for the moon, even if you know it might take eight long years of hard, backbreaking work to reach the goal. As long as everyone is united along the way, you will make progress.

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