Commentary

Yes, There Is A 'Wrong' Way To Collaborate

Although the corporate side of healthcare is slightly less dramatic and exhilarating than the operating rooms you see on Grey’s Anatomy, it’s equally satisfying and exciting to collaborate with smart and motivated teams for the good of a health care organization that helps so many patients and their families.

But not all collaboration is created equal. I was struck by a Harvard Business Review column on “collaboration overload,” which highlights collaboration pitfalls for large organizations. For marketers, a collaborative environment is typically encouraged, but it’s not always the most strategic approach. The next time you’re working collaboratively or planning a meeting, consider the following:

1. Keep it to 30 minutes. We’ve all been in those 2-hour+ meetings that seem to stretch on and on, with little to show in the end for the investment of time. Instead, try instituting a 30-minute maximum for all meetings and calls. What you’ll find is that people arrive focused and ready to quickly communicate those issues that truly need the group’s input. It will not only make your time better spent, but free up other time for those ongoing priorities.

2. Look beyond large meetings to communicate. Meetings are essential to align people and priorities. But much can be done without a face-to-face encounter. Working out issues via email or other messaging tools can allow for more thoughtful input, and keep the work progressing without getting bogged down in calendaring.

3. Prioritize thoughtful opinions over politeness. Many people hold back opinions for fear of insulting a client, boss or peer, rocking the boat, or looking foolish. True collaboration occurs when people speak their minds and trust that others are open to hearing their thoughts. Do you remember the opening to MTV’s The Real World? “Find out what happens when people stop being polite, and start getting real.” There had to be at least one person in Pepsi marketing meetings that thought the Kendall Jenner ad was tone deaf and didn’t speak up, right?

4. Welcome all levels of expertise. Having specialists on your team is a good thing, but each person in a meeting should be empowered equally to contribute ideas. Great ideas don’t come from experience alone, and meetings should be sized to ensure everyone is heard. While the opinion of a senior strategist in a marketing meeting is evident, great ideas and insights for campaigns often come from more junior team members who are “in the weeds.”

5. Don’t stick to the plan – if it’s not working. If an idea feels stale or a process unwieldy, a change can do everyone a lot of good. Change can also be welcome even if everything is going smoothly. Change up the structure of routine meetings or brainstorms to keep them fresh. Switch the time of the day, book a different location, or bring in fresh faces (and in turn, ideas) to be a part of the process.

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