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Collaboration and Mindfulness – How and Why

Why working together well is more important than ever

Collaboration in the workplace can be a tricky subject. On the one hand, we are social animals. On the other, we drive each another up the wall with our annoying habits. Collaboration, working together to produce a desired outcome or product, is vital if we are to achieve success in the workplace. With the ever-increasing trend towards skill and knowledge specialisation, the individual’s output becomes less valued in its own right. The productivity slump of the last decade suggests that we can do more to combine our individual expertise more efficiently. As the volume of knowledge held globally increases, and this knowledge and expertise gets held in silos of individuals, teams and organisations, it has arguably never been as important for us to work together collaboratively, to efficiently combine our collective skills so as to innovate and stay ahead in a competitive world of work.

Collaboration can happen in many directions. As an individual staff member, we may need to collaborate with clients, colleagues, managers and other stakeholders. We know that companies with higher levels of collaboration achieve better results. So what gets in the way?

What breaks down collaboration

In a word, it’s our ego. Let’s take a real-life, if rather extreme example: the current occupant of the White House. Let’s look at his ability to achieve what he has set out to do. At the time of writing, his record of achievement is paltry. He is unable to pass any major legislation despite his own party holding majorities in Congress. Unable to collaborate with his own team, he fires and appoints staff at breakneck speed. Easily offended, he reacts fiercely to criticism and blames others when things don’t go his way. On top of all that, he holds frequent rallies in which he surrounds himself with people who agree with him. The result: he achieves little.

While we may not have an ego as swollen as Mr Trump’s, we can all be susceptible to taking offence, reacting to criticism and surrounding ourselves only with people we agree with. Many of us tend to blame others when something goes wrong in project delivery without examining our part in the story. So how can we get around this?

How Mindfulness smooths barriers 

Mindfulness. Mindfulness is about building and maintaining awareness of ourselves and our immediate environment. It helps us to avoid reacting in the heat of the moment by giving us the tools to step back from our experience. It helps us to recognise the negative thoughts judgements that can cloud our ability to see clearly. If we experience frustration because a colleague has not sent us a piece of work on time, mindfulness allows us to recognise that experience and helps us to respond wisely. (How often have you said or done something in the heat of the moment, only to regret it later?) People who are more mindful are less reactive, enjoy improved relations with colleagues and experience less conflict with those around them. As we develop our mindfulness, we cooperate with others more and work better in teams. Managers who are mindful achieve better results in their teams.

As I’ve written before, mindfulness is the antidote to stress. When we’re stressed, we’re more likely to snap at colleagues and less likely to sleep well, which in turn makes us more likely to be snappy with colleagues! The more difficult we are to work with, the less we will be approached to collaborate on projects (you might be able to think of a difficult colleague that nobody ever wants to work with!). Mindfulness allows us to effectively smooth over these barriers to collaboration.

In short, mindfulness helps us not only to have the enjoyable and satisfactory experience of a low-conflict working environment, it helps us to get ahead and stay ahead. This applies to us as individuals, teams and organisations.

If you want to open up collaboration in the workplace, why not see if you can introduce mindfulness where you work? You could be amazed at the results.

Brian – Mindfulness Teacher and Consultant with RTG Wellness Delivered