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Developing a Collaboration Mindset

As a basketball player, would you rather shoot a contested three or pass to your teammate for an open layup? Obviously, you would all pick the latter. So why do you often opt for the former when it comes to your job, and try to take on challenges alone? Even more importantly, how can you change this behavior and adopt a team-focused approach to the mission?

GovLoop’s recent NextGen webinar, “How to Foster Collaboration in Government,” took aim at these questions, with leadership development expert Carolyn Mooney offering tips and strategies for improving teamwork in the office.

One important piece of advice Mooney gave was about seeing the potential in conflict. Most of us probably think of conflict as something to be avoided, but that is not necessarily the case. In reality, conflict can be an important part of organizational growth and success.

“Managing conflict is about being comfortable in the uncomfortable,” said Mooney. By learning to thrive in these potentially difficult situations, one can leverage the growth that arises from properly managed debate and disagreement.

Mooney also offered advice for people who have just made the transition into a management role, which can be a tricky career development to navigate. One of the hardest changes, she said, can be moving from a peer mindset to a supervisory one.

“As soon as that change happens, the norms change and the culture changes,” said Mooney.

By focusing on communication, however, one can make this switch as smooth as possible. This could take the form of scheduling individual check-ins with all of your direct reports, which gives you a chance to talk through the ways in which existing relationships have changed and make sure that you and your team are on the same page moving forward.

Another aspect of team-building that is often overlooked is the handling of the unique relationships necessary with remote employees. The advice that Mooney had for this was simple: keep the expectations clear and the check-ins regular. “You have to check in regularly, both spontaneously and formally,” she said.

When coworkers aren’t physically in the office, it can be easy to think of them as disconnected or separate, so working to integrate them is also vital. This includes personal aspects as well as professional ones. Just like you’d chat with someone working next to you about their weekend plans, so you should make an effort to treat remote employees not just as distant robots, but as complex and valued team members.

Fostering collaboration ultimately comes down to turning a team into something greater than the sum of its parts. Managers should strive to create a trusting and open environment, and any individual team member can contribute by supporting their colleagues and engaging with them in constructive ways. By embracing a team-oriented mindset, any agency or organization can increase their productivity, effectiveness, and capacity.

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Nya Jackson

I like Mooney’s point about seeing the potential in conflict. Organizations hire us to provide new ideas/perspective so it’s ok to respectfully disagree if you can offer up a better alternative or suggestion.