Collaborative skills impact the success of every organization. Organizations with complex tasks and/or high levels of interdependency among employees require greater collaborative skills in order to perform well. The ability to build effective collaborative relationships and mutually supportive work environments has a direct impact on organizational effectiveness. Strong collaborative skills leverage the effectiveness of all relationships and environments, particularly among team members and between departments, customers, suppliers, partners and all the interdependent parts of any organization.
The TLT Collaborative Skills Climate Survey can diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of collaborative skills within your organization. It was developed as part of a multi year global research project designed to measure the impact of collaborative skills on the effectiveness of organizations. The survey measures five skills found to be essential in building and maintaining collaborative environments and relationships.
The skills are:
- Collaborative Intention: Focusing on mutual gains in relationships.
- Truthfulness: Creating environments where people feel safe enough to tell the truth.
- Self-Accountability: People taking responsibility for their role in any situation as well as the intended and unintended consequences of their action or inaction.
- Awareness of Self and Others: Staying non-defensive and willing to explore difficult interpersonal issues in order to solve problems.
- Problem Solving & Negotiation: Negotiating conflicts in a way that builds relationships rather than undermines them.
The survey measures those skills along two dimensions; first, the current skill level, and second, the gap between the current skill level and the level at which employees feel they need to be in order to perform at optimally. A small gap between current and desired levels generally indicates employees are satisfied with the current level of skill within the organization. They believe people are as skillful as they need to be in order to be successful. A large gap indicates greater dissatisfaction with the current situation. Employees do not feel they have the collaborative skills necessary for the success of the organization. It is the combination of the current skill level and the size of the gap that will impact an organization’s effectiveness.
The survey is an on-line instrument which takes employees about 15 minutes to complete. The survey is currently available in English, Danish, Swedish and Dutch. Reports can be generated in any organizational configuration.
For more information about the survey, contact your local collaborative skills consultant.
For more information about the survey instrument and a description of organizations with both high and low skill levels, read on.
This collaborative skills survey measures five sets of collaborative skills along two dimensions. The measured skill sets have been found to be essential where collaboration is necessary.
The skills are:
- Collaborative Intention: Individuals are able to maintain an authentic, non-defensive presence and make a personal commitment to mutual success in their relationships.
- Truthfulness: Individuals commit to both telling the truth and listening to the truth. They also create a climate of openness that allows all people in the relationship to feel safe enough to discuss concerns, solve problems, and deal directly with difficult issues.
- Self-Accountability: Individuals take responsibility for the circumstances of their lives, the choices they make either through action or failing to act, and both the intended or unforeseen consequences of their actions. They would rather find a solution than find someone to blame.
- Awareness of Self and Others: Individuals commit to knowing themselves deeply and are willing to explore difficult interpersonal issues. They seek to understand the concerns, intentions, and motivations of others, as well as the culture and context of their circumstances.
- Problem Solving & Negotiation: Individuals use problem-solving methods that promote a cooperative atmosphere and support mutual gains in relationships. They avoid fostering subtle or unconscious competition.
If the currently perceived skill level is high and the gap is small it would indicate that people within the organization are capable of performing at high collaborative performance levels. The nature and tasks of the organization require a high level of collaborative skill; however, people within the organization are very skillful and therefore are able to perform at optimal levels. High skills are necessary, but people are very skillful, so no problem. Their collaborative skill acts as a catalyst for innovation and higher levels of problem solving. In atmospheres free of mistrust, intrigue, fear and betrayal, individuals have a greater opportunity to realize the full potential of their circumstances.
If the currently perceived skill level is low and the gap is large it would indicate that people within the organization realize they need to be more skillful at collaboration in order to succeed. Complexity and interdependency within the organization create a need for higher skill levels and people realize they are not skillful enough to succeed. This creates a big problem for both the individuals and the organization. Organizations with low skill levels and high gaps typically consistently under perform.
It is possible for some organizations to have a very low level of collaborative skills and still have a small gap. In organizations where individual contributors have little interaction and interdependency is very low, people may be able to succeed at their tasks with a low level of collaborative skills. If there is little need for collaboration within the organization, it doesn’t matter if people are particularly bad at it. In those cases, the gap between the current level and the necessary level will be small even if people are very unskillful at building collaborative relationships and environments. One cautionary note to be alert to, however, is that occasionally people within organizations with low levels of collaborative skills will engage in self-deception about the level needed. If they lack skill, they may not be aware enough or accountable enough to accurately assess their need for such skills.
For organizations wishing to improve their collaborative skills the good news is this; collaborative skills can be learned, practiced and encouraged at both an individual and organizational level. A large number of Organizational Development, Training and Performance Improvement consultants include collaborative skill building as part of their offerings.
In organizations scoring low on Collaborative Intentions people tend to be self-centered and are focused on their own success or avoidance of failure, often at the exclusion or expense of others. People are dedicated to their own personal gain and not particularly concerned about the long-term impact of their behavior on others. They focus on short-term advantage and gain. People can be hyper-competitive and see others as adversaries, even enemies. They see conflict as a battle and may seek to win at any cost. Others with low Collaborative Intention can be hyper-self focused and simply ignore, avoid, and pay no attention to others. Regardless of the strategy there is an underlying sense of serving one’s own personal interests first and foremost in every interaction. Others are seen primarily as a means to an end.
In organizations scoring high on Collaborative Intention people are sincerely interested in supporting each and seeking ways to insure mutual success. People are dedicated to both their own success and the success of others. People dedicate their efforts to larger goals beyond their own individual gain and do not feel diminished being in a supportive role. People are committed to building long-term cooperative relationships. People openly express their desire to cooperate and are proactive in relationship building. People reach out to others to find ways to mutually support each other. At the deepest level there is an underlying sense of seeing others as having value in and of themselves regardless of whether the person can produce any external value in the short-term. Out of this deep sense of respect, creative partnerships can emerge.
In organizations scoring low on Truthfulness candid and open discussions are rare or uncommon. People are secretive and guarded and avoid difficult discussions. People have hidden agendas and do not share their reasoning behind their decisions and positions. There is little or no open conversation about substantive issues. People may deliberately distort or lie to further their own interests and protect themselves. There can also be a lot of withholding and stonewalling. The environment can range from deadly hostile to politely dead. People do not value diverse viewpoints and there is often an undercurrent of fear, anxiety and mistrust. People often feel they don’t know where they stand or what is really going on in the organization. There may be an overdependence on rules and procedures as a way to avoid direct conversations. There may also be passive resistance to any procedures that require people to interact directly with each other on difficult issues.
In organizations scoring high on Truthfulness open and direct discussions are common. People are willing to share their own viewpoints and are willing to seek out and sincerely listen to other viewpoints. There is a high level of transparency and people are forthcoming about their reasoning. People are clear, open and direct about their intentions. People are willing to talk about challenging and difficult topics with each other. There is no intention to mislead or manipulate other people. Problem solving is easier because people are candid from the beginning about their perceptions and understandings. People are not afraid to ask challenging questions or openly state their own beliefs. There is an undercurrent of excitement, creativity and trust. People know where they stand.
In organizations scoring low in Self-Accountability people avoid personal responsibility. They refuse to acknowledge any connection between their own behavior and any resulting negative consequences. However, they are often quite talented in accusing and shaming others. They often feel that things just happen to them and they have no contribution to the situation at all. Decisions are often made through non-action. People do not take responsibility for their own emotional reactivity and often blame others for “making” them feel bad. They often feel victimized and misunderstood. They seldom seek feedback and are often offended if feedback is offered. They are more focused on assigning blame to others than seeking solutions.
In organizations scoring high in Self-Accountability people sincerely accept responsibility for their own attitudes and behaviors. People feel empowered by seeing and acknowledging their contribution to any outcome, positive or negative. They take responsibility for both the intended and unintended consequences of their actions. People can be counted on to do what they say they will do or they will renegotiate any agreements. Individuals seek out and are responsive to feedback. They are willing to admit mistakes and learn from them. They focus on understanding and problem solving rather than assigning guilt. They are focused on their own choices and options in any given situation rather than blaming others. They take personal responsibility for maintaining high quality relationships.
Awareness of Self & Others
In organizations scoring low on Awareness of Self & Others people lack self-awareness and awareness of what motivates others. People are blind to their own rigidities and ineffective patterns of behavior. They do not see their own inappropriate reactivity to the situation at hand. They are unaware of the critical interpersonal tone going on in relationships. They are often disconnected from their own deeper values and principles. They are not self reflective so they don’t know why they behave the way they do and they also have a difficult time understanding and empathizing with others. They can be superficial and overly calculating in their relationships with others.
In organizations scoring high on Awareness of Self & Others people are emotionally and socially intelligent. They know their own behavioral patterns and continue to explore their own inner motivations, intentions and possible blind spots. They usually respond without defensiveness and are able to notice and take responsibility when they get reactive. They seek out and value feedback. They are savvy at managing their own feelings, moods and behavior. They are perceptive about reading the interpersonal or emotional climate in daily interactions. They can both understand and empathize with others. People can respond authentically at whatever emotional depth is appropriate for the circumstances.
Problem Solving & Negotiating
In organizations scoring low on Problem Solving & Negotiation people are not skilled at solving problems together. They can be overly authoritarian attempting to coerce others or they can be highly avoidant of any conflict, refusing to meet or talk together. People have no interest in helping others find fair solutions that are sensitive to the needs of all parties. Often “other people” rather than “issues” are defined as the problem and people quickly get stubborn and rigid in their positions. There is little or no commitment to sincerely negotiate or talk things through. Most of the focus is on solving one’s own problem and either ignoring or being hostile to the concerns and interests of other parties. People are not very creative at finding solutions.
In organizations scoring high on Problem Solving & Negotiation people are dedicated to working together to solve problems. People work together inclusively and cooperatively around difficult issues. People treat each other as valued allies addressing long-term problems. People are committed to seeking fair solutions that are responsive to the interests of all parties. People actively seek to help and support others and put energy into solving other side’s problem as well as their own. People are sincerely willing to talk and negotiate and are able to separate “people issues” from the problems. They can disagree without being disagreeable. People see differences of opinions and conflict as natural and manageable in relationships and work environments. They see potential conflict as an opportunity to gain deeper understanding, build trust and reach more elegant, creative solutions.
© 2006-2008 Jim Tamm, J.D., Ron Luyet, MA, & Dick Thompson, Ph.D.