Phil was feeling frustrated. He and Jake had been at it for two hours, and they had made little progress. From the beginning, Phil felt that Jake hadn't been receptive to his ideas, so after a while he just stopped offering them. Now he felt like little more than a typist and mouse jockey.
Jake was no happier. He was a peer of Phil's boss, which made the collaboration with Phil "diagonal." To Jake, Phil seemed to have his mind on other things. Jake wondered, "Why did Phil agree to work on this, if he didn't really care about what went into it?" Jake had much to do that was more important, and now he was wondering why he was caught in this situation again — spending time on the wrong things with the wrong people.
They were both locked in — by different locks.
When hierarchy is unimportant, diagonal collaborations aren't especially risky, but when hierarchy counts, diagonal collaborations have traps for both partners. Here are some tips for preventing conflict in diagonal collaboration.
- Have a good reason to collaborate
- Perhaps you want to learn something, or to get to know your colleague. Perhaps you have critical skills, knowledge, or talents. These are all good reasons to collaborate. But if your motive is to mentor, to be mentored, to block, to overtake, to justify your existence, or to grab some of (or all of) the glory, don't sign up.
- Take reasonable risks
- When Fun is missing,
the simplest explanation
is that you forgot
to bring the Fun
- Anticipating a problem sometimes becomes the problem. Collaborate as if with a peer, until you can tell whether your partner is comfortable with that. It's best if the two of you can discuss this issue openly, but if you can't, assume the best, unless you discover otherwise.
- Focus on content and communication
- Emphasize content instead of the status gap between you and your colleague. Assume that you're working with your partner because somebody thought that you could team up effectively, and because you had something to contribute. Contribute it.
- Work out the kinks
- However difficult you find the collaboration, it can be just as difficult for your partner. Things are unlikely to change for the better if both partners keep their misgivings to themselves. If necessary, ask for help from an impartial third party.
- Enjoy yourself
- Working with the right partner can be fun. Look for ways to create that kind of experience. When Fun is missing, the simplest explanation is that you simply forgot to bring the Fun with you. Take a break, find the Fun, and start again.
- Remember that collaboration is a partnership
- Think of your partner as a peer. Be open to new approaches, and be open to moving in new directions. Let "mistakes" happen — they can lead to exciting, original creations.
You might have a choice that Phil and Jake did not. If you read this page together, right at the start, you'll both have these tips in mind, and that might help keep your collaboration in the safe zone. Top Next Issue
The article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- The Shape of the Table
- Not only was the meeting running over, but it now seemed that the entire far end of the table was having
its own meeting. Why are some meetings like this?
- Hill Climbing and Its Limitations
- Finding a better solution by making small adjustments to your current solution is usually a good idea.
The key word is "usually."
- False Summits: I
- Mountaineers often experience "false summits," when just as they thought they were nearing
the summit, it turns out that there is much more climbing to do. So it is in project work.
- How to Get Out of Firefighting Mode: I
- When new problems pop up one after the other, we describe our response as "firefighting."
We move from fire to fire, putting out flames. How can we end the madness?
- Issues-Only Team Meetings
- Time spent in regular meetings is productive to the extent that it moves the team closer to its objectives.
Because uncovering and clarifying issues is more productive than distributing information or listening
to status reports, issues-only team meetings focus energy where it will help most.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming August 21: Perfectionism and Avoidance
- Avoiding tasks we regard as unpleasant, boring, or intimidating is a pattern known as procrastination. Perfectionism is another pattern. The interplay between the two makes intervention a bit tricky. Available here and by RSS on August 21.
- And on August 28: Playing at Work
- Eight hours a day — usually more — of meetings, phone calls, reading and writing email and text messages, briefing others or being briefed, is enough to drive anyone around the bend. To re-energize, to clarify one's perspective, and to restore creative capacity, play is essential. Play at work, I mean. Available here and by RSS on August 28.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, )
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, )
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, )
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, )
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, )
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, )
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Leadership
- On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached
the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the
race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical
drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders, business analysts, project
sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore
lessons in leadership and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look
at leadership from the vantage point of history. Read
more about this program. Here's a date for this program:
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio
44017: November 7,
Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute.
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio 44017: November 7, Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
- Your stuff is brilliant! Thank you!
- You and Scott Adams both secretly work here, right?
- I really enjoy my weekly newsletters. I appreciate the quick read.
- A sort of Dr. Phil for Management!
- …extremely accurate, inspiring and applicable to day-to-day … invaluable.