Collusion vs Collaboration

| | General Leadership
Collusion vs Collaboration

The subject of collusion has been a hot topic in US politics these days. So I want to start by making it clear that this post is NOT about politics, but rather about the kinds of human behaviors on teams, in organizations and in life that keep us stuck vs. move us forward.

Take a moment and think about something you want to achieve that really matters to you right now that requires you work well with others.

For a work team, it could be something like implementing a new technology, launch a new product, or make a big positive change in your work environment. If you run a small business you might want to massively grow your clients and revenues.  For a sports team, it could be the pursuit of a championship.

Now look at the group of people you are depending on to achieve that goal and ask yourself this question: Can we count on each other when it really counts?

A group of talented individuals does not necessarily translate into a high performing team.  That’s why sometimes the underdog seemingly comes out of nowhere to win.  In fact, high performing teams know that to succeed they must depend on each other as much, if not more, than their individual talents.

Perhaps even more importantly, they act as if their success is dependent on the success of others.  They also believe that they can truly count on each other to do what is best for their team, to be treated with respect and fully supported no matter what.

Colluding for Mediocrity vs Collaborating for Greatness

The answer to this one question – can we count on each other when it really counts – can reveal whether your team is colluding for mediocrity or collaborating for greatness.

When a team is collaborating for greatness…

…Individuals judge their success based on their team’s success.

…Feedback offered may be tough, but it is always delivered in the spirit of calling for someone to be and do their best.

…Team members challenge each other to be great.  

…Communication comes from a context of “I know you are great and I am going to push you to be the best you can be, even if you aren’t going to like what I have to say sometimes”.

…Teammates celebrate success together and take personal responsibility for their contribution to failure so they can together turn things around.  There’s an attitude of “what can I do differently going forward to do my part to turn things around”.

…Individuals focus on what matters to the team and give the best of themselves even when they don’t feel like it.

When a team is colluding for mediocrity…

…Individuals judge success based on their own performance rather than the team’s performance.

…Feedback is designed to put people in their place or make them feel inferior.

…Team members avoid challenging each other to avoid being uncomfortable.  

…Communication comes from a context of “I won’t call you on your bad attitude, behavior, etc., so you won’t call me on mine”.

…Teammates celebrate success together but look outside of themselves for the reasons why they failed.  There’s an attitude of “I did my part but they didn’t do theirs”.

…Individual actions are based on what the individuals want rather than what is best for their team.

CAUTION:  Before you begin to make assessments regarding whether your team is collaborating for greatness or colluding for mediocrity, beware of getting stuck in the paradigm of “collaboration means my team members are good and collusion means they are bad”.  If you are human chances are you have engaged in every one of these behaviors.

The point of considering your teams behavior is to assess the gap between where you want to be and where you are now so you can find a way together to close the gap to performing at your best as a team.

Making the Shift from Collusion to Collaboration

There are a lot of reason why a team may fall into the behaviors of colluding for mediocrity.  In fact, recognizing and getting honest about these behaviors can be used as a springboard for transforming collusion into collaboration.

Some of the main reasons why teams collude for mediocrity are fear of failure and a lack of trust in each other.  Both of these things can cause us as individuals to retreat to what we feel we can control – often that means our own performance.

Yet what we all too easily forget is that one of the things we can control is how we relate to one another.

So before you consider what your teammates may or may not be doing or how they are behaving, a place to start is consider your own actions, attitudes and behaviors.

You can start by asking yourself, do my teammates believe they can count on me when it counts?

And then consider these questions…

…are you willing to be held accountable by your teammates for being and doing your best?

…are they willing to be held accountable for being and doing their best by you?

…what would I need to let go of or embrace to ensure my team gets what it needs most from me?

Collaborating for greatness requires that every member of a team makes decisions to do what is best for their team over and over.  High performing team members are courageous enough to ask and allow their teammates to push them and hold them accountable for being and doing their absolute best.

Are you and your team colluding for mediocrity or collaborating for greatness?


Enter A Comment

Joey Amacker   |   08 April 2018   |   Reply

Great article.

Susan Mazza   |   27 April 2018   |   Reply

Thank you Joey!