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Collaboration and Compromise ARE NOT the Same Thing

This week, every newspaper, newscast, and late night comedian has been talking about the dysfunction in Washington DC. Legislators wedded to their own agenda to the point of total gridlock have caused disappointment, anger, and disgust for observers and constituents alike.

Many seemed to lack the awareness that comes from a basic exercise I use when training teams about how to work effectively and efficiently together. If you don’t know the difference between collaboration and compromise, you are more than likely to get a miserable end result. And you will also get  the whining about the outcome by those very people who crafted it.

When people work in teams and groups, everyone has their own agenda. It is total lunacy to think that you will find that everyone has no agenda, thinks, exactly as you do, or finds you so brilliant that they set aside their ideas in favor of yours. If they have been told by people who placed them on the team to carry out the agenda – it makes it even more difficult to drop it at the door. (Tey know they will have to deal with those angry faces when they return.)

But people try anyway. And in Washington, if you find a few people who agree with you, it can make you feel stronger in your entrenchment.

Compromise means that you each give up some of what you wanted, in order to move forward. With everyone feeling a little disappointed and injured rather than just one, it somehow seems better. (Huh?!) Those who compromise are often adversaries first and last. The term suggests giving up and dissatisfaction.

Collaboration means that all parties involved recognize that the best solution is one where people work together to create a satisfactory result.  Those who collaborate are partners in the creation of the answer.  The term suggests creativity and innovation.

Solutions created by those who compromise and don’t work together toward a solution end up with usually watered down versions that don’t really make anyone happy. The folks involved complain about how unhappy they are with the result that THEY created – as if that was the best they could come up with. The articulated goal might have been the best outcome, but the real goal was all ego – they wanted THEIR idea out there.

Collaboration requires some skills:

  • Listening to the other person and understanding how they see things, what’s important to them, and why that is so;
  • Asking questions that allow you to get to a deeper level of understanding;
  • Confidence in yourself – which allows you to leave your position (high horse) for a while, knowing you can return to it later, once you’ve created a foundation on which you can build a strong, collaborative process that result in the good solution that IS your best effort.

If your team at work resembles the folks in Washington, then you may have some real skill building to do and might even benefit from a good facilitator. The legislators may never admit they don’t have the ability to collaborate, but we have just seen  pretty clearly how creative, innovative, respectful, and capable they are at working together to craft the best solutions.

In the workplace,  I often ask leaders to reflect on how their teams work together, what needs to happened to gain more effectiveness and efficiency, and if they think they have the right people on the team.  At your workplace as well as in Washington DC, it leads to some revealing answers.

It begs the question – if this isn’t the best you can do – what’s stopping you from doing better?

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011 at 2:01 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.