Category Archives: Brain storming

What attributes are necessary for creating a collaborative work environment?

photo 4I recently participated in a Group Methods Facilitation Course run by ICA. The last activity gave me the opportunity to facilitate a Consensus Workshop around the question: What attributes are necessary for creating a collaborative work environment?

I was thrilled not only by the richness of the responses (too good not to share), but also, by the diversity and similarity of responses. This last part sounds like a contradiction, but, what I am really trying to get at is, even though we all come from different workplaces and backgrounds, and have different roles and responsibilities, we still have common needs, goals and interests!

Here is a quick overview of what I did with the group:

1) I asked everyone in the group to come up with  6-7 responses to the question and write them on a piece of paper.

2) Then I asked them to share the ones they were most passionate about, and I placed them up on the board so that everyone could see.

3) As a group we clarified anything that wasn’t clear and grouped those that were similar.

4) Then I asked the group to share the rest of their responses and we continued to create groups or add them to existing.

5) Lastly, we decided on a summary name or phrase that best described the responses in a category (in another words, a consensus answer to the question!).

In the end we had 6 different categories of responses. We summarized these as the following (I have included a few of the individual answers under each of the six categories so that you get an idea of the individual responses):

  1. Team support
    • Help team members as needed
    • Best practice database to share resources
  2. Framing the work
    • Create work plan
    • Define roles and responsibilities
  3. Building staff rapport
    • Informal conversation spaces
    • Opportunities to “walk in my shoes”
    • Chance to come together and have fun
  4. Common goals
    • Annual team goal setting workshop
    • Specific goals and outcomes
  5. Shared vision of success
    • Shared expectation of what “success” looks like
    • Collaboratively create a way to measure success
  6. Consistent communication
    • Regular team meetings
    • Include everyone in dialogue
    • Formal conversation spaces

This is the result in a short amount of time (20mins) with a group of people that work in totally different work places. I am looking forward to trying this with my colleagues.


Qualities for relationship building and collaboration

I have been doing a lot of thinking around relationship building and collaboration. In particular, what qualities make someone a good relationship builder or collaborator. Here are some of my ideas:

  • Humble: ability to put one’s ego aside, receive feedback on their ideas, and hear opinions different to their own.
  • Open minded: ability to ascertain diverse solutions to a problem and avoid quick judgements.
  • Curious: ability to ask questions to find out more about others opinions, interests and contexts. Avoids making assumptions about a situation or other.
  • Good Listener: hears what is being said not what one wants to hear. Asks more questions.
  • Empathetic: ability to put oneself in another’s shoes and understand different perspectives.
  • Perceptive: ability to recognize difference of opinion or understanding about a topic. To recognize when someone feels like they are not being listened to. Or notice when someone has not given their opinion.

Employee engagement brain storm

A co-worker brought up the topic of staff engagement at our team meeting the other day. She is one of the representatives of a team working to increase staff engagement across the organization. The dire news is that only 21% of staff are engaged, 58% not engaged and 21% actively disengaged across the organization (according to a 2011 Gallup Survey commonly used to measure engagement).

Engaged: these employees are loyal and psychologically committed to the organization. They are more productive and more likely to stay with their company for at least a year.

Not engaged: These employees may be productive, but they are not psychologically connected to their company. They are more likely to miss workdays and more likely to leave.

Actively disengaged: These employees are physically present but psychologically absent. They are unhappy with their work situation and insist on sharing this unhappiness with their colleagues.

She asked us what we thought about engagement, and what are some of the issues around engagement.

An interesting discussion followed, including everything from engagement theory and practice, to humor. I thought I would post a few of the thoughts that came up:

  • There is a spectrum of engagement…not everyone engages in the same way, for the same amount of time. Those details can be important when considering priorities, current levels and goals for future levels of engagement.
  • There are different types of roles in engagement. For example, some people are listeners while other play more a proactive role. It was even mentioned that one of our co-workers tasty treats (cakes and baked goods) provides the social context for other employee engagement.
  • It is important to consider the barriers and challenges to engagement that exist. For example, often we try and engage staff with out all of the necessary support/infrastructure in place to really allow them to fully engage (take action). Or that some disengaged staff may have personal challenges going on in their lives that do not allow them to be engaged at work. For example they are struggling with depression and personal problems outside of the workplace.
  • Interest in engagement can be sparked by different types of opportunities. For example, someone really concerned about the environment at home, might be interested in becoming a sustainability champion. Also, our engagement efforts often land on the already converted. It is important to think about how to reach those hard to reach groups.
  • Engagement is directly related to how you use your discretionary time. We all had a good laugh at the idea of having discretionary time in the work place. But, it is true that engagement requires devoting time for tasks beyond ones immediate responsibilities.