My vision is bad.

For those who wear glasses or contacts, my vision is -7.5. If you don’t wear glasses, then that number means I am close to being legally blind.

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I got my first pair of glasses in elementary school, and started wearing contacts in middle school. Contacts have been part of my daily routine for over 15 years. Yet despite dealing with contacts every day, I still put them in incorrectly on occasion. Specifically, they somehow get turned inside out. When I put my contacts in like this, I cannot see things clearly. Everything looks a little funny until I fix the problem.

How to View Collaboration

In our leadership, the way we view things shapes how we interpret those things. For example, if we view someone as being immature, then we will likely see everything they do through that lens.

Collaboration is one of those issues that we may view incorrectly. We all likely work on a team, and some of us may even lead a team. Yet despite our team members having great education, experience, and expertise, we just do not seem to be working well together. Sure, we are working on the same project at the same time, but things do not seem to click.

There are many prescriptions for this issue, but ultimately the correction needed is quite simple:

Your team is viewing their roles incorrectly.

Think about the people on your team. More than likely, they are representing different departments or responsibilities. Their job expectations are different than yours, which is why you both are on a team. While these differences are what build the team, they are also what keep the team from working well together.

For your team to be truly collaborative, they must view themselves not as departmental representatives but instead as members of a new team. Instead of showing up to meetings prepared to defend their work, they instead show up ready to contribute to solutions.

If we represent a department or area on a team, then we often filter everything from the bottom up. We consider everything discussed in the meeting from the perspective of how it impacts our department first, and not how it first impacts the greater company purpose. So instead of thinking objectively about solutions, we think in a way that protects how we currently do things.

The correct view for your team is top down. From this view, everyone thinks as a member of a new team trying to solve big problems. They are willing to address issues from every angle, including ways that may reveal issues or weaknesses in their own department.

This approach first hit me last year. I was asked to lead a special project that impacted nearly every department. We gathered representatives from each area and began meeting to address and correct the issue. At first, most people came in defending what they currently were doing.

During our 2nd meeting, one gentleman offered a perspective on what was currently happening in a different department. Nothing he said impacted his department, yet he still was offering incredibly helpful feedback to another team member. In that moment, I realized that team members who think top down are fare more valuable on the team.

As your team transitions to think top down instead of bottom up, they will begin thinking together. And thinking together is the best way to begin true collaboration.

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