Win Win Isn't Always Win Win
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 0:10
Welcome to "Your Authentic Path to Powerful Leadership" with Marsha Clark. Join us on this journey where we are uncovering what it takes to be a powerful woman leader. Well, Marsha, welcome back to our fourth episode in our series on Managing Conflict and Enriching Relationships.
Marsha Clark 0:31
Well, thank you very much, Wendi.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 0:32
I know we've been hearing from our listeners about how much they've really learned and applied what they've already learned from the first three episodes. So I'm feeling really good about continuing this journey into conflict response modes.
Marsha Clark 0:47
Yes, thank you very much. Yes, our listeners are definitely finding a lot of value from these sessions. Conflict is hard for women. And it's been really, I think, good to break them down into each response approach so that we can dig a little deeper into how all five modes can be and are effective ways to address conflict.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 1:08
Okay, now Marsha, do us a favor and provide a short, like Cliff Notes version of the model again and what we've covered so far.
Marsha Clark 1:16
Sure. So for review, or for our listeners who maybe are just now jumping into the series with this episode, let me offer a little bit of context of the model the framework that we're using. It's based on the research of Kenneth W. Thomas, and Ralph H. Killman and the model that they derived from years of research in their work on this topic of conflict. And the model shows that conflict responses are varied based on the degree to which we are assertive, just standing up for what we want or need, or being very results or task focused compared to how cooperative we are. So it's focused more on maintaining and building relationships and supporting what the other person or people in the interaction need or want.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 2:05
Okay, and so based on those two axes of assertiveness and cooperativeness, we end up with five unique approaches to conflict.
Marsha Clark 2:15
That's right and the three that we've already covered, so in the three previous episodes, one is "avoiding", and that's an episode called "Denial Ain't Just a River". The second is "competing", and the episode title is, "My Way Or The Highway", and "accommodating",
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 2:15
Yep, last week's episode which was "Be Our Guest". (That's right!) So that brings us to this week's episode, which is called "Win-Win Isn't Always Win-Win". And we're focused on that conflict response mode of collaboration. So here's the question I've been wanting to ask ever since I saw this title. Since when is win- win not a win-win? I mean, isn't that the gold standard of all conflict resolutions to reach a win-win?
Marsha Clark 3:05
It's a trap! (Okay.) So Wendi, for you and our listeners, what is the answer to all your questions?
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 3:13
Marsha Clark 3:14
Yes. And therein lies this trap. And so which conflict response mode of the five - avoid, compete, accommodate, compromise and collaborate - do you think is the best one? So just in your opinion.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 3:28
Well, I would say that most women would say "collaborate" is probably the best one looking for that win win. So I'm assuming that that's not the case.
Marsha Clark 3:38
No, you know, here's what I want everyone to hear. It's a perfect example of "it depends". And quite honestly, I think we've all been drinking the collaboration Kool Aid, if you will, for so long that we've come to assume that it's the end all and be all solution for every single conflict, or at least that it's the optimum solution. But hopefully, if our listeners have been paying attention to the first three episodes, they can already recognize each of the five response modes have some ideal uses or situations where they really are the best approach, which means collaboration, or working for that Win-Win solution might not actually be the best approach and may not yield the best return on investment of our time, our energy, our resources that we've used in this process of collaboration. It's one of five.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 4:28
Yeah, I see the logic behind that. So there are conditions or requirements where collaboration or going for that Win-Win make sense, but it's not a universal solution.
Marsha Clark 4:39
Exactly. So today we're going to explore the situations where collaboration is an excellent approach and talk about some of the important skills that support being a great collaborator and as always, what it looks like when we either under or over, in this case, collaborate.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 4:56
Okay, so on the Thomas/Killman model itself the collaborate response mode falls both on the high ends of assertiveness and cooperativeness. And that really makes sense since collaboration is focused on both achieving results and on building and maintaining relationships. And I think that's an important distinction for this response because it's really about balancing those often contradictory goals or ends or desires.
Marsha Clark 5:27
Well, that's absolutely right. And this is where I think the definition of collaboration from Oxford Dictionary comes up a little short on the amount of deliberate effort it takes to make true collaboration. And I want to emphasize that true collaboration happen.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 5:42
Okay. So the definition that you include from Chapter Nine of your book "Embracing Your Power" says, collaboration is "working jointly on an activity, especially to produce or create something". And what I hear you saying there is that it's more than just jointly working together.
Marsha Clark 6:02
That's right. And that is where we can start to differentiate collaborate from the other four conflict response approaches. We can jointly work together to produce something or achieve results using other approaches. For example, if you are competing and I am accommodating or vice versa, and still working jointly, still achieving results. And those outcomes are not exclusive to collaboration.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 6:28
Okay, so you give a really helpful example of how collaboration is different from competing in the book. So share that, please.
Marsha Clark 6:36
Okay. I usually explain the difference this way. In competing, I come to the table with a 100% position or answer. So I got it all. I got it all figured out. And I'm coming, here's the deal. In collaborating, I come to the table with a point of view, a perspective, functional knowledge, research, and (big and), so does everyone else. Okay, and this is an important distinction so that no one of us has the complete or ideal answer. Rather, we're going to create it together.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 7:14
Okay. So that is a very important distinction. I like how you describe the ultimate collaborative effort that we walk away from our time together with a decision, an answer, a solution that no one of us could have developed on our own. And I also appreciate your pointers on how to set up a collaborative conversation or a meeting for success.
Marsha Clark 7:39
Yeah, and thank you for reminding me of that, Wendi. I really do think that we can increase the chances that our collaborative efforts will be much more successful if we start out, quite honestly, a little more strategic and deliberate in our approach. So the pointers that I list in the book include the suggestion that if you're going to take a collaborative approach to a meeting or you know a gathering, a joint effort, let others know that. And more importantly, let them know what you mean by collaborating. You might send out a note to meeting participants prior to the gathering and tell them that you'll run the meeting as a collaboration.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 8:18
That's really a simple tactic, but how important that sounds. I mean, I think people walk into a meeting with a set of expectations that are usually unspoken like sometimes it's a status update, sometimes you know, there's really not an end goal in mind. So to prompt people for that kind of collaborative discussion or dialogue you intend to lead or support is really a powerful, powerful tool.
Marsha Clark 8:45
I think so, too, Wendi. We've all grown up with our own understanding of what collaboration means. And to be honest, sometimes even that difference of experience and definitions can get us crosswise even before we try to collaborate. And one other thing I'll add is that just because you put a bunch of people in a room does not mean you're collaborating. (Wow.) I just want to say that.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 9:10
Okay, true. So what started out as an effort to collaborate can end up as conflict because we had different or conflicting expectations on what it means to collaborate. Is that what I'm hearing?
Marsha Clark 9:23
That's exactly right. It's a circle. So it happens every day and in every organization on every continent around the world. So my typical advice for anyone who wants to truly collaborate is to recommend setting some very clear expectations up front as part of your initial invitation to the meeting. And you know, I suggest that people share this information, literally in the meeting invite gets things on our calendar, and that's what we go to is our resource. Show all notes, if you remember that in the meeting updates. So, you know, here's a couple of suggestions. So you say in your meeting invite, here's the decision we need to make or the problem we need to solve. Or another example would be come prepared with your experience, research, ideas and functional expertise and (I just want to say this is really important) be prepared for others to bring their research, experience, ideas and functional expertise. That's the joint part of it. And we will respectively listen to one another and give serious weight and consideration to what everyone has to say. We'll be creating the answer together. We'll ask probing and clarifying questions, and we'll build on one another's ideas, taking the best that each of us has to offer. And so I you know, oftentimes, our listeners will know this, we don't have the language. And this is what I try to do in the book is to give very specific language that sends the intended message.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 10:58
Exactly. (An example of that.) Right. And you're specifically calling out this collaborating approach as one that respects the diversity and full inclusion of everyone in the meeting. Like these bullet points that you just went through are exposing that.
Marsha Clark 11:15
That's right. That's right. And I do believe that effective collaboration can and does build an inclusive environment, I mean, the necessary part of it. And so it respects the diversity of experience and ideas reflected in how the people are contributing in very useful ways. And it gives weight and consideration to everyone's thoughts and ideas. And that's an act of inclusion.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 11:38
What are some of the specific situations where collaboration is an effective approach to dealing with conflict?
Marsha Clark 11:46
Now, for me, there are some distinct themes that drive the need to use a collaborative approach to solving problems and resolving conflict. And the three that I highlight in the book involve the need to one, merge perspectives and integrate ideas, a lot of what we just talked about and two, is the need to gain commitment from others. And that is, I need you to make it work. And whatever we come up with, you're going to be involved in that. And three is the need to learn from others in order to create some of that breakthrough or innovative thinking.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 12:24
Your explanation for this in the book is pretty clear when you say that the very definition of collaboration is about merging perspectives and valuing and embracing the diversity of thought. So once ideas are out on the table, you begin to integrate them into a coherent new solution or possibility. I mean, that seems logical.
Marsha Clark 12:47
I agree, Wendi. And I think most people see this, you know, you can call it the alchemy of ideas, is one of the biggest benefits to effective collaboration. And the the second one about gaining commitment is another situation where most people see the value of a collaborative approach. We've all been part of that team or project where it's imperative to get the buy in from others in order to reach that ultimate goal. You're going to vet it, you're going to socialize it. It's the language that you often hear in business. And using a collaborative approach where we're actively seeking the contributions of others as well as their ideas and concerns goes a long way in creating that, or gaining that commitment.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 13:31
Absolutely. I mean, people get on board and engage more fully when they've had a chance to participate in the process and contribute to the solution.
Marsha Clark 13:41
That's right. And this is a situation where collaboration is the is this is the right answer, if you will. And so the questions I asked my coaching clients, and even myself, for that matter, when I'm trying to decide if the situation calls for gaining commitment are (so think about the other people that you've invited to the meeting): Do you need their psychological buy in? They're on board with you bringing people along? That's the language of many performance management systems. Do you need them to make it work? They're going to be the ones who actually go do the hands on, you know, feet on the ground kind of work, and in most cases takes a team to make that work. And do you want them to have some skin in the game. And skin in the game can be commitment to the end, goal or objective. And it can also be that they care about the results.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 14:31
Right. People tend to care about the results when they have more skin in the game, as you've said. So the third situation you highlight where collaboration is key for learning and innovation. And I hadn't really thought of that until I read it in your book. Will you unpack that a little bit for our listeners?
Marsha Clark 14:49
Sure. So I added the learning and innovation as specific situations where collaboration is, I believe, an excellent approach because it's the key to sustainability and effective change management. And how many times are changing sustainability used in the work world today, and in our lives, quite honestly. And in the same situations where your group is facing a new challenge, one that no one individual has ever tackled or solved before, you have to come together and learn from one another in order to create those new solutions. This new challenge could be exploring organizational policies or branching out into new products or services, expanding into new territories or with new customers. And any of those examples are opportunities to bring together really different perspectives and truly listen and learn from each other. And whatever the case, whatever the situation might call for, hearing from everyone will pay dividends in helping each person see the big picture and understand the broader implications of whatever our solution or decision might render.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 16:02
You make another important distinction in this section of the book regarding the nature or context of what people are collaborating on, and how that can influence your approach. So will you share that with everyone?
Marsha Clark 16:14
I will. You know, sometimes you're going to choose the collaborate tool to determine what it is you want to accomplish. So what is the outcome or the end game and sometimes the what, quite honestly, has already been decided and you're going to collaborate about how to best to achieve the what. And it's critical that you be clear and that everyone who is contributing is also clear on whether it is a what or a house solution you're trying to develop. And the example that I often use is, let's say your organization has described a strategy of 20% growth over the next three years. That's the what - 20% growth. There are many different ways that you can achieve that 20%. You can acquire other companies, you can introduce new products or services, you can expand into new geographies. That's the how, and I further suggest to our readers, our listeners, my clients, that you must determine the what before you even begin to think about the how. You have to know what you're trying to achieve.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 17:21
Yeah, it's kind of that begin with the end in mind. The what versus the how distinction really stood out to me when I first read it. And I can definitely see why it would be important to get that clarity out in the open right away, upfront.
Marsha Clark 17:35
Right. It really helps alleviate the heartburn, if you will, early on in the project because quite honestly, if you're in a "what" conversation and I'm in a "how" conversation, we're not really in the same conversation.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 17:46
Exactly. Yeah. So I want to add one more thing here as we explore the choice of collaboration as an approach to managing conflict. So I did a little extra digging and found an explanation from Ralph Killman himself on when and why collaboration works as a response. And he says collaborating only works well when number one, the topic is very important to both people. Or number two, there's time available or time taken to discuss the deeper issues. And three, the topic is multi dimensional and allows both parties to get their needs met with creatively packaged solutions. And then finally, number four, both people want their relationship to last.
Marsha Clark 18:37
I love that you found that, Wendi, and right from the source. That's always good and a great add. And, you know, this idea of when both the result and the relationship and this fourth point, want the relationship to last. This is you know, where managing conflict effectively really, that's how you measure. (Exactly.) Did I get what I wanted and did the results stay resolved.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 19:00
Right. Right. So with each of the conflict response modes from the model, we've been exploring the situations and the skills required to effectively use that approach. And you emphasize four different skills for effective collaborating, so I'm gonna just list those here. So number one is the ability to listen. Number two is non threatening confrontation. Number three is analyzing input or identifying concerns. And then number four is facilitating. So why don't you break down those a little bit more for our listeners.
Marsha Clark 19:38
Yeah, I'll be glad to. The skills required to be a good collaborator are really important because if you don't use these skills, the ones that you just listed, your collaboration can break down quickly. The first one is this ability to listen. And you know, we know that some people are just almost innately good listeners and we also know some that aren't And we focused an entire episode on building our active listening skills. And the episode was our 29th episode and it was titled "Huh?" which I think is such a great title. But I believe we dropped that episode in early April of this year if our listeners now would like to go back and do a deeper dive on that What I shared there was one of my favorite tools to enhance listening, which is the three level listening model.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 20:23
Yep, I remember this one. It's where we listen first with our ears, second with our head, and finally, we listen with our heart. So for anybody who missed that episode, what's the essence of those three levels, Marsha?
Marsha Clark 20:38
Glad to, glad to remind. So level one is listening with our ears and this is focus. I want to say it with that tone. Focus. Be present. Don't be thinking about everything else. Minimize or eliminate those distractions that keep us really from literally hearing what others are saying. And it seems so simple, but oh so hard for many people. You can know whether you've listened with your ears if you can repeat back what the person said. All right, level two, listening with our head means that we've got to apply some critical thinking to what we've just heard. So the questions I like to use at this level are you say something, let's just say for example, and I would ask myself how does that connect to what my experience or research tells me? Is what Wendi is sharing relevant to what we're trying to accomplish? Wendi, could you build on that to better understand, clarify? Would it work asking ourselves, this sounds like an ideal thing, but you know, it's like many things on paper, it looks great but will it really work in execution? And does it expand my thinking to consider broader, deeper different proposal. Level three is listening with our hearts. And this is my favorite, of course. This is when we connect with that what I describe as our deeper instincts, or intuitions, and really paying attention to that gut check to tell us if what we're hearing aligns with what we know or at least believe we know.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 22:12
Yeah, thank you for that quick review.
Marsha Clark 22:16
You're most welcome. And in the end, I just want to say it all starts with listening. When collaborating a great many words, facts, data research, you know, the stories, the anecdotal experiences are shared and if you're gonna give weight and consideration to what others are saying, be aware of these levels of listening. And, you know, and then the next skill we're going to talk about will help you to process it.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 22:39
Okay, so this next skill that we are introducing is non-threatening confrontation. And wow, that seems like an oxymoron.
Marsha Clark 22:49
You're right, it does. And and it might help to reframe the word confrontation by saying it's really standing your ground or asserting your position. And in this case, we do it in a non-threatening way.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 23:03
Yeah, that still seems a little contradictory. So how does...? You give us a how. How does someone go about doing this?
Marsha Clark 23:09
So one of my favorite ways to do this is using an approach that intentionally balances advocacy and inquiry. That's the key phrase - balancing advocacy and inquiry. And so for some portion of our conversation or meeting I'm clearly, solidly advocating for my position. And I'm saying, Here's what I think, here's why I think it, here's the research. I'll explain my perspective, share my data and my personal experience regarding the topic. So that's the advocacy side of balancing advocacy and inquiry. And then I'm going to very deliberately turn and inquire into the other person or the people if there's multiple perspectives, and by allowing another person to also assert and advocate their thoughts, we can now integrate the solutions or merge perspective. And if I'm listening on all three levels, I'll also want to probe and clarify. And so I encourage you to ask questions that start with how, how would that work? Or what would that look like? What would that entail? What would that require? So, and maybe even what additional resources would be needed in order to successfully do that, whatever the other person's perspective is.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 24:26
Yeah, and you caution people against using why questions and I want to know why.
Marsha Clark 24:33
Well, of course, of course. So what I've seen too often is the most well intentioned, genuinely curious listeners ask why questions and they're often misinterpreted as challenge and they set off all kinds of defensive posturing bells and whistles. And so sadly, their efforts to better understand the other person's perspective gets derailed when they ask the why, why, why questions. And so I often describe it this way. It says, if you're drawing a line in the sand, well, why do you think that would work? Well, why did that come up? And if you draw that line in the sand, you're on one side of it and I'm on the other. And by virtue of it being your opinion and not mine, or your thought and not mine, you're on the wrong side. You're on the wrong side.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 25:21
Yeah. Okay. So bottom line, a key skill underlying effective collaboration is this ability to balance your own advocacy with the enquiring into the ideas and the thoughts of others.
Marsha Clark 25:34
That's exactly right. And I'll also add that if or when you can't quite get the balance there between that advocacy and inquiry, err on the side of more inquiry than advocacy and especially if this project or whatever issue it is you're trying to solve, is going to take more than one meeting in order to resolve it. So give yourself and whoever else is involved the benefit of building up to a more balanced exploration of ideas, concerns, and so on. And this is even more important if you, the facilitator, have more positional power in the room than others. And by spending more time and effort inquiring into the perspective of others, you're investing in the relationship and really building trust because you care what they have to say. You trust that what they're going to offer is good contribution. And you're modeling a commitment to developing a mutually satisfying and long term solution.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 26:37
Ah. Seems very strategic. And I love the option of flexing just how much and when I'm going to promote my agenda.
Marsha Clark 26:46
Yeah, and I'm glad you said that too, Wendi, because that's another key teaching point in this content around balancing advocacy and inquiry. We all know at least one person who is all about promoting their own agenda with complete and total disregard of what others need or want. And there's no balancing whatever. They're advocate, advocate, advocate advocate for their ideas. And you've been in those meetings where no matter what another person says, this person keeps coming back to his or her idea. But, but, but... you know, and they keep coming back. And so pretty soon, you just tune them out. You start, you know, checking your phone, you need to take a personal break, or you start thinking about something that's totally unrelated to what you're trying to accomplish. And you know, they pretend to be collaborating when in reality I'm pushing my own agenda, I'm really competing. And that's why it's important to be clear about a gathering being a collaborative effort and defining what you mean by collaborating.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 27:43
Yeah, I would think that sometimes you would have to pull people back, you know, into that frame of mind, if you will, and remind them of what the agenda was that we listed out earlier. So the third skill you list associated with effective collaboration is analyzing input or identifying concerns. Let's talk more about that.
Marsha Clark 28:05
Yeah, and I think an easier way for maybe our listeners to relate to this is that collaborative meetings often include some form of brainstorming, or ideating, or idea swapping, you know, and as with any of those kinds of brainstorming sessions, a lot of ideas and information are shared. And so what we have to do once it's all up on the board, so to speak, we've got to identify. And this is important ahead of the meeting what our decision criteria is, how are we going to choose of those 20 ideas on the board. What will our criteria be to decide which ones we want to pursue further and to make sure that I share that with the group ahead of time.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 28:48
What are some examples of decision criteria?
Marsha Clark 28:51
Yeah, so I list quite a few in the book and it can be anything from cost, available resources, timelines, competitive advantage, regulatory requirements, contract terms and conditions, legal requirements, and really even reflection of yours or your organization's values, principles or brand. I have one client who it's not just return on investment, it's return on vision, and return on community. And I love that. I love that there's, you know, more than one way to define that. And as ideas and information are shared and the time for decision making arrives, you're going to have to assess the best aspects of the information that's been shared. And you may discover that you haven't explored all of the items on your decision criteria list. And if that's the case, you'll want to ensure the appropriate time, focus and consideration be allocated to those remaining topics. And this is going to ensure a more comprehensive decision with fewer problems as the decision is actually executed. And I can tell you 52 years of work experience, a little extra time on the front end will pay big dividends on the back end.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 30:05
Yeah, definitely an example of pay me now or pay me later.
Marsha Clark 30:08
That's right. That's exactly right. So, investing in that time to get clear on decision criteria up front results in less rework, less tension, greater productivity, and a better chance at delivering a successful solution.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 30:23
Completely makes sense. And I will say that I rarely attend meetings intended to collaboratively explore options and make a decision, where we spend time getting really clear on the decision filters or criteria up front. And so I'm definitely working this into the situations in the meetings where I'm the one who's responsible for setting the agenda. This kind of framework would make those discussions go so much more smoothly and less time wasted.
Marsha Clark 30:54
Well, it is. And it's usually when it's time to make the decision, or that we're trying to figure out how to make the decision that it comes up. And it's it's one of those things it isn't hard to do if we'll just carve out the time and put it on the checklist. And we just don't usually make that a priority.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 31:11
Right. Okay, so let's wrap up this exploration of collaboration skills with the fourth one, which is facilitating. Why do you add facilitating as a crucial skill for collaborating?
Marsha Clark 31:26
I say this, I want to really quote from the book. And that is that "collaboration is a mindset and a process". And so from the process perspective, you want to ensure that you hear from everyone. And I often use a process called check in and check out and these are two tools in your toolkit. And the value of having everyone speak at the beginning of a significant gathering, which is the check in, is that once their voice is in the room, they're more likely to speak up in the, you know, ensuing discussion or conversation. And we might refer to these oftentimes as icebreakers if you will, but I want our listeners to hear that they're an important component, especially in collaborative settings. And, and it requires a facilitator to make sure that this part of the process, you know, is included. And, you know, you think about what you're checking questions or icebreaker questions might be. It could be as simple as what do you hope to accomplish in this meeting, and you capture those oftentimes, you know, on a flip chart, or whiteboard or whatever. And another is how can you best contribute to our objective today? And I'll also remind our listeners that notice that these questions, start with what and how to engage, and that the responses to these questions can help the facilitator know when to invite people to contribute in a more specific and useful way.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 32:55
Yes, I'm pretty sure we did an entire episode on the check in check out process. I know it was earlier this year. So yes.
Marsha Clark 33:03
All right. So yes, you're right. We did and I think the title of that one was "I'm In". That's right, which is what the person says after checking in to let everyone else in the room know they're done.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 33:16
Right. And that came out in January of this year.
Marsha Clark 33:18
There you go? Yes, very early in the process. We were checking in.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 33:22
Yeah, that would have bugged me all day. So okay, back to the collaboration skills. In your book, you share how important it is to have someone filling that facilitator role for your collaborative meetings. Why is that role or function so important to effective collaboration?
Marsha Clark 33:42
It's really difficult to be both a facilitator and a participant. So that's just a premise that I go into this with. So if your gathering a people this meeting is to resolve or decide a big issue, so maybe it's a new something, it's high risk, high visibility, big stakes if you will, bringing someone into facilitate so that you can fully participate without having to also manage the process is the thing that I think would really work. So, because when you try to do both roles, it's often confusing to other participants. So they're wondering if you're speaking as the facilitator to manage the process, or as a content contributor. And this doesn't mean you have to hire a facilitator. So I'm not trying to encourage that in any way. And yet that might be the best viable option and choosing someone who understands the process of facilitation and the role of the facilitator and they can be detached from the outcome so they can be really focused on that process.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 34:45
Do you think that facilitator role should be anybody who has skin in the game or is the likelihood of the bias (thank you), I was about to say passion, would that like overcome them?
Marsha Clark 35:01
Depends on how good the facilitator is.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 35:03
Marsha Clark 35:05
The best facilitators can detach. But if I do feel strongly on that passion piece of it, yeah, it can get in the way.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 35:13
Okay. Okay, so you provide some helpful pointers on the responsibilities of the facilitator. So why don't you share those?
Marsha Clark 35:20
Yeah, and I think our listeners, I'm guessing, that many of them might find themselves serving in a facilitator role. So just recognizing how important a function it is, and in ensuring that the meeting is organized and structured well, and also ensuring that people are as prepared as possible to participate and that's all before and then managing the flow of the discussion. And, you know, I recommend that the facilitator is accountable for some very specific action items related to the meetings. And, you know, these are in the book as well, if you want to reference those. And so one of the roles of the facilitator is to create the agenda with the meeting leader. And the meeting leader is the person who does have skin in the game and is the point of contact or the point person for this particular topic. And it includes what are the meeting objectives, who should be invited, what the timeline needs to be either for the entire meeting or the line items on the agenda and the decision criteria. The second one is to manage activities during the meeting and ensuring adequate time for every topic on the agenda. Recording those decisions, making sure that people know when the decision has been made. Identifying questions and any follow up items. Ensuring that participants are engaged and involved in and that each participant has an opportunity to contribute their ideas as well as an opportunity to probe and clarify other's ideas. To recap the important points of the meeting. To ensure alignment as people leave the meeting. And this includes agreed upon items and who has responsibility for those items. And then any next steps as appropriate.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 37:08
Yes. So earlier, you mentioned the value of warming up the group or giving them a chance to fully engage using the process of check in. How can a facilitator or a leader use the check out process to gauge where people are at the end of a meeting?
Marsha Clark 37:25
Great question. We've got to check in on the front end, we've got to check out on the back end. So the process of check out is a great way it's I talked about it as checking the pulse of everyone in the meeting. So some of the checkout questions that I offer in the book is give everyone a chance in the moment to describe how they feel about the meeting. So their comments might reflect thoughts about how you feel about the content shared? How do you believe the facilitation process served to achieve the objectives of the meeting? How do you feel about the decisions that were made? And it will also help you know if there's some follow on conversations that need to be had because people aren't quite either bought in or we haven't gotten their commitment, that sort of thing.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 38:08
Right. So what types of checkout questions would make sense in these collaborative meetings?
Marsha Clark 38:13
Yes, so one might be what stands out for you regarding where we are as we leave this meeting? Another is how will you share the direction of this project based on today's meeting? And these checkout questions also prompt people to stop and think about what just happened, what we've just done, versus just automatically moving on to the next meeting where you know, like all the meetings just kind of run on. (Yes, indefinitely.) And they can attach additional meaning to the process and the outcomes of a collaborative meeting. And, inevitably, these questions can also help participants craft their narrative on how they're going to talk about what we did in the meeting. Because you've been in those meetings. You think we did ABC and some people go out and talk about XYZ and they're not the same. And so this helps kind of get everybody on that same page.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 39:03
Yeah, I had never thought about how you could use the responses to the checkout questions as a way to start framing, or even branding a particular idea or solution for people to start socializing within the company. I mean, that makes sense that their responses could help you test people's buy in or test their concerns because then this is a great bonus of the use of their comments.
Marsha Clark 39:28
Yeah, and you know, a lot of people say, this is just a feel good exercise, blah, blah, blah, as you go around the room, but what it really does is provide some invaluable intel, you know, intelligence into where people stand in regards to the topic, whatever topic it is you're exploring.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 39:43
I would think, especially as a leader, if you're the leader of the meeting that's invaluable feedback. (I think so too.) Yeah. Okay, so it's that time in the episode as we've done with the other response modes, so we need to share what it looks like when people underuse collaboration, and then what happens when people overuse it, kind of like we're having, we only have one collaboration color crayon and they use that for every picture they draw.
Marsha Clark 40:12
I think that's a really fitting metaphor for overuse. Pink's my favorite color so I color everything pink! Yes. And I guess we could say that underuse is when your collaboration crayon still has its original, perfectly sharpened point. So let's look at underuse first. And in the book, I highlight three consequences that often occur when people fail to collaborate. And the first one is loss of mutual gains. The second is low empowerment and lack of commitment (kind of go together). And third is loss of innovation. And in the case of loss of mutual gains, the consequence, I'm referring to what happens when you don't give everyone who will be involved in the making a decision an opportunity to contribute their best thinking, so we haven't gotten the benefit of their input. And when you fail to include key people or stakeholders, you often end up with an incomplete or even some optimized results, and may not understand the ripple effects of your decision or solutions. And this results in surprises, or last minute fire drills or unhappy customers or lost credibility and lots of rework.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 41:26
So you're really missing out on the contributions and expertise of others by not including them or collaborating with them. And I can see how that can also lead us to the second consequence that you list, which is low empowerment and lack of commitment.
Marsha Clark 41:42
That's absolutely right. And these are definitely connected. And think of it this way. If I'm not collaborating with others and asking for their input on projects, then I'm likely either trying to go it alone, which leads to the loss of mutual gains, or I recognize that I do need others to help me achieve the goal. But I fall into tell mode instead of enrolling others into the initiative. So I'm being more directive than collaborative.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 42:13
Are there times when telling or being direct, though, is the right approach?
Marsha Clark 42:18
Well, yeah. Remember, it depends. And that takes us back to the compete response mode. And, you know, that's the example of the we gave about the flight attendant, you know, trying to evacuate a planeload of people in an emergency. And I really want him to tell everyone what to do, how to do it. And now I don't want them collaborating. Well, let's all get together and talk about how to get out of this crashing plane. So you're not worrying about gaining the buy in of the other passengers on any of that. Just do it, and that's the right approach in that situation. But in the case of trying to build relationships and get results, which is what the collaborative approach is trying to achieve, then always telling people what to do instead of seeking their input and buy in will likely create and reinforce that environment of low empowerment and lack of commitment.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 43:04
Yeah. You wrote something in the book about this that made so much sense to me. And you said, okay, here it is. "If you are the person always telling instead of inviting others' input, people tend to wait for your directives rather than offer their own thoughts or ideas. And over time they become order takers rather than critical thinkers with the leadership mindset." That's a horrible legacy to leave behind, like not training or grooming people, growing people behind you.
Marsha Clark 43:41
And that's why I caution people about the consequence, often an unintended consequence, that the chronic order givers will get malicious compliance, rather than empowered engagement. And I want our leaders to just listen to that.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 43:57
Yeah, malicious compliance. Wow.
Marsha Clark 43:59
Just do it, damn it. Pardon me. You know, that's kind of it. But rather than I want to do this. This is going to yield a good result, and I got to contribute in creating this. And so to truly gain commitment, you need to engage their heads, their hearts, their hands, whatever, in determining whatever solution or decision you're trying to achieve.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 44:20
Okay, then the third possible consequence of underusing the collaboration approach is the loss of innovation.
Marsha Clark 44:30
And the idea here is that it's during the collaborative process when generative thinking occurs. So think about it where we're building on one another's ideas and creating solutions. So really, no one person could have come up with this on their own. Just thinking, think about the language. Oh, that's a great idea. Well, that makes me think of that's the way of generative thinking. So the underuse of collaboration potentially results in the loss of new, creative, innovative solutions or decisions. And having diversity of thought, experience, functional expertise and life perspective is beyond valuable and creating new possibilities in delivering, you know, outstanding results and enriching relationships.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 45:18
Yeah, it's really all the main reasons why people collaborate in the first place to have those potential allies, to gain new ideas and to make more solid decisions. Yes. So if collaboration provides so many benefits, how can there be any downside to not using it all the time? I mean, how can trying to create a win-win solution not always be a win-win?
Marsha Clark 45:44
I think that's a reasonable question, Wendi. And it's why we titled this episode like we did, "Win-Win Isn't Always Win-Win". There are times or situations where the effort, the energy, the resource allocation, you name it, everything that's required for effective collaboration just doesn't make sense, given the desired outcome. There are many times that it doesn't make sense and I call out these three specifically in the book. We can spend too much time collaborating on trivial matters and that often leads to work overload. There can be the fear of diffused responsibility because it really wasn't an appropriate use of collaboration to begin with. And quite honestly, others may take advantage of the collaboration.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 46:32
Yeah because they can hide in the weeds. Yes, I mean, number two, and number three, that's what I'm hearing is hiding in the weeds. And I'm 100% on board with the first one because too much time on trivial matters. Nobody needs to include me in every conversation, every discussion, every minute decision making detail.
Marsha Clark 46:52
And I may have to manage my FOMO, my fear of missing out.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 46:55
Oh my gosh. You know, I don't have that anymore.
Marsha Clark 46:58
I don't either. I've got enough stuff, please. So you know, that's where we can get into, it's all the things like, let's pull a group together and decide where we're going to lunch today.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 47:09
Oh, my God, that will last till three o'clock.
Marsha Clark 47:13
So that's where we can get into collaboration overload or fatigue. And so many well intentioned people and I'm, I'm guilty as heck of this, feel like they need to include everyone on every decision every time. So we want to be thoughtful, we want to be strategic, be mindful of who really needs to be included. And be respectful of other people's time and workload and manage our own FOMO if that's something that we have, and make sure that you have a real concrete reason for including people in your collaborative process or strategy.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 47:45
Yes, let's say that louder for the people in the back because I think most people can relate to that. The other two consequences of overusing collaboration are intriguing to me. So I want to hear what you mean by diffused responsibility.
Marsha Clark 48:01
So some people fear that if there's a group of us, the solution or decision was developed by a team, then no one person is going to be responsible. And I tell this story. I was working with the COO of a company who once actually said to me, if this project goes south, I want one throat to choke. And I shudder at his comment for many reasons. And the important thing here is that you want to be clear about assigning roles and responsibilities just as you would on any other group assignment and you want to hold people accountable accordingly. (Go ahead.) No, I was just gonna say, I mean, they're still, dare I say, one throat, one person is still responsible. There's always that point of content.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 48:50
Right, right. Yes, begin over collaborating can blur those lines of where the buck stops, either accidentally or intentionally.
Marsha Clark 48:50
Well, that's right. And that actually links to our third scenario where collaboration can be overused as a bit of cover, if you will, for some people. And this is where the third one, others may take advantage, where they may intentionally use the cover of a collaborative decision to either deflect their own accountability, kind of a, it wasn't my decision, it was a group decision, you know, kind of thing. But it can also be a bit of a bait and switch situation, so let me explain, where really someone has no real intention of truly collaborating and they just really want to convince you that their idea or approach is the way to go but they dress it up in the discussion as if they want this to be a collaborative process. And I call that the beware of the competer in collaborator's clothing. It's a trick and we've all experienced the person in meeting who has the right answer, right, what we should do, and he or she will not move off their position. And even as different people bring their respective ideas and experience, this person just keeps repeating their same point again and again. Clearly they weren't listening on all three levels. And they aren't there to collaborate.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 50:11
Marsha Clark 50:15
So much is coming up now...
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 50:17
I know. I'm having, having a little bit of a moment. So I know we're almost at the end of this episode. And we've covered a lot of important points about the collaboration conflict response mode. The last thing I'd love for you to share is on the example you use in the book of what to do or how to handle this competer in collaborator's clothing situation. That feels like something that I have a feeling many of our listeners could benefit from hearing.
Marsha Clark 50:51
Yeah, Wendi, we have covered a lot of ground today, and I agree this would be a great way to wrap up this section. So in the scenario where you're leading or facilitating a collaborative meeting, my first suggestion is to make sure your attendees know the meeting is intended to be a collaborative effort. Be very clear in your invitation and the agenda, what your intentions are. And then, and I emphasize, hold true to the process. This is one big reason why it's helpful to have someone in that official facilitator role. And I will share with our listeners when I've been in the role of facilitator, I have gently pushed back and asked the person if they're open to hearing other's points of views or expanding their own. It's just a general question. Are you willing to hear? I've also asked a person to leave a meeting privately or, you know, while we were on a break. I'm not there to embarrass or shame anyone. But if they're disrupting the meeting, or preventing it from getting to a true collaborative solution, that's my responsibility as a facilitator. It hasn't happened often. And I want to emphasize, I do so respectfully, and acknowledging that they may be ready to come to a decision, but that as a group, we aren't there yet. And as you can imagine, this is super tricky when the offender, that competer in collaborator's clothing, has the most authority or positional power. And you know, I then circle back, and we discuss whether they truly want a collaborative process because they're often the person who called the meeting, right, if they've got positional power or if they're just going through the motions simply to declare they gave everyone the opportunity to speak up. Because again, that's two different things, the different decision criteria, it's like I'm checking a box rather than truly trying to get to a joint true Win-Win result. And I often describe this as the sham of collaboration. And so the key message here is not to let someone derail your collaborative process. And this is why the clarity of your communication, declaring it a collaborative process on the front end, is so important. And getting very clear about that with the meeting organizer or the meeting driver that here's what I mean by collaboration and you're hiring me as a facilitator, so we get real clear about that and try and avoid the back end problems.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 53:16
Wow, wow, wow. Marsha, so much helpful advice today and for a topic that I'm guessing most people assumed that they already know how to do well, and you know, and that it probably is a lot of our listeners default mode. So there's so much here that I would offer our listeners to please go back and re- listen to this episode because there's a lot of great nuggets in here, how to have truly effective collaboration. So for you, Marsha, what are the top two or three takeaways from today?
Marsha Clark 53:51
And I want to emphasize your point about people thinking they're collaborating and in fact, they're not. And I will say it again, just because you bring a group of people together in a room does not mean you are collaborating. You have a lot of specifics and boundaries that you set and you also have a process for truly achieving a strategic, intentional, thoughtful, collaborative approach. And so now let me move to the wrap up. And I think I'm going to work backwards on this one. And just say, number one, it is possible to over collaborate. And we need to be very clear on our reasons why we think we need all this input in the first place. What are we trying to achieve? And the bottom line here is to be very intentional about when and why you are collaborating. And then the second wrap up point is to recognize that effective collaboration is more than just shoving a bunch of people in a meeting and assuming they know how to work toward a mutual goal. It's not automatic and it's not always easy, and especially with those disguised competers if you will, in the room. So get clear on the skills required and follow a solid process. And then the third is that effective collaboration takes time and it really takes mutual respect, takes commitment. And when any of those ingredients are missing, you may not have a true collaboration.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 55:16
Yeah, it almost feels to me like you need to kind of have a mini meeting before this meeting where you get everybody that you're going to have involved to agree on what the goal is. And I know we talked about that, but that almost seems like a precursor so that you're not wasting time in this meeting.
Marsha Clark 55:35
I couldn't agree with you more.
Wendi McGowan-Ellis 55:38
Well, Marsha, thank you for walking us through this collaborative conflict response mode. Given me a lot to think about again, how to tighten up how I collaborate with others and when that's appropriate. Okay, listeners, next week we're going to explore the fifth and final approach, which is compromise.
Yes. And I love the title of our next episode, which is "Compromise - A Four Letter Word". (Oh, my Yes.) We'll have some fun with that.
We definitely will. Well, thank you, everyone, for joining us today on our journey of authentic powerful leadership. Please download, subscribe and share. Share this episode that you may need to share this episode with your next group that you need to get together. Share this podcast wherever you listen. Please visit Marsha's website at marshaclarkandassociates.com. for links to all the tools we talked about today, the resources. Subscribe to her email list and stay up to date on everything that's going on in Marsha's world. You can also find out more about her book, "Embracing Your Power" on the site as well as other social media. And, Marsha, we're getting pretty close to talking about book number two. I'm just going to drop that little nugget.
Marsha Clark 56:55
We are getting ever closer. And you know, I want to just say to our listeners today, you know when you think about our topic, we talked about problem solving, we talked about decision making, we talked about conflict management, we talked about results, we talked about relationships. It touches on so many things and leadership is hard. And you know this is about our leadership mindset. So I do hope that our listeners found some good tips, tools, nuggets, reminders about the importance of when and how to use collaboration. Because I think for women as being the relationship people that we are, this is often a default. And so, listeners, thank you for joining us today and I do hope you'll share this with people in your own network and within your, you know, whether your workplace, or dare I say even your family as you're thinking about family holidays or family vacations or even some of those things. And so, we appreciate you. Let us know if you have thoughts, questions, comments. We so enjoy engaging in that kind of interaction. And as always, you know, this seems more appropriate than ever when we're talking about conflict management and the importance of relationships... here's to women supporting women!