Episode recap: Collaboration with Patrick Aylward

This week we chatted with Patrick Aylward, a lawyer turned author whose courtroom experience has inspired him to champion collaboration as a method for finding solutions and building stronger relationships.  He believes that opting for a collaborative approach in lieu of debating or competing with one another is beneficial for any team, and scientists agree: studies have found that working collectively supercharges our performance while making the tasks more enjoyable too.

However, as Patrick observed working as a mediator, quite often people aren’t truly collaborating even when they say they are. There is an evident disconnect between the perceived importance of collaboration and how well it is applied in the workplace: employers tend to consider collaboration “very important”, yet a significant amount of employees aren’t satisfied with the level of collaboration within their organization and  employees and employers alike often cite lack of collaboration as the reason for workplace failures.  

What could workplaces do differently to bridge this gap and tap into the full potential of their teams? On the podcast Patrick gave us some great insight on how to apply and encourage genuine collaboration at the workplace.

Collaboration in business and team work

“The power of collaboration is able to harness the diversity within the group, so as to make the team more effective”

While it is apparent that collaboration drives workplace performance, Patrick also emphasized the importance of a shared vision between team members. Once a sense of purpose is established with a strong vision at leadership level, the power of collaboration becomes an effective tool to harness the diversity within the group in order to pursue that vision to the fullest extent.

However, a strong vision doesn’t have to be immutable: Patrick believes it is essential to also retain a spirit of curiosity as a leader. If a leader has already made up their mind on how everything has to unfold, there is no room to truly engage and learn from their team. Curiosity sparks empathy and listening skills, that are vital to collaboration.

“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” – Steve Jobs

These elements of collaboration are especially important to bear in mind when working remotely: as casual conversation and other relationship building elements are erased from the workdays and interactions are mostly task oriented, it is easy to slip into a harder leadership style. Even if the best solution could also be reached via a quick debate over a Zoom call, without space for empathy or understanding each other’s perspectives the team is not collaborating, hence not working effectively.

In driving a cultural change like this at the office, reward systems that award individual performance might seem counterproductive, but Patrick wouldn’t jump to rebuilding them: as collaboration cultivates better solutions and stronger relationships, it also enhances everyone’s opportunity and potential to benefit from the joint work on an individual level. Hence, collaboration can be used to leverage the advantages of an existing reward system to become available to a larger number of employees.

Tips based on Patrick’s six step process

“Being collaborative is a choice. It’s impossible to be judgmental and collaborative.”

To help people apply the power of collaboration for their lives, Patrick has shaped a simple six step process anyone can use to find the best solutions and build stronger relationships. Here are the basics of each step, as discussed on the podcast today!

  1. Set parameters to create an atmosphere of safety and inclusiveness, so that the conversation can be full and productive. A safe atmosphere lowers any sense of defensiveness.
  2. Exchange perspectives – simply share how you view a situation, instead of going the debate route. The whole idea of this step is to hear and be heard. When you’re not rebutting the other person you can actually listen learn, as opposed to listen to respond.
  3. Describe the issue in a neutral and broad manner, instead of identifying opposing sides and tilting your description to your advantage. Describing the issue neutrally and broadly allows all perspectives to fit underneath the description. This creates inclusion in the problem solving.
  4. Identify interests – figure out what is it that we want, or want to avoid in a good solution? What we want is highly likely to be compatible with what the other person wants, simply because of how we are hardwired as human beings. There’s a growth in mutual understanding that happens when people realise what they want and what they want to avoid have a level of compatibility.  
  5. Generate options, ask questions of what we could do differently to address the issue we described in step three, taking in consideration the other party’s perspective they shared on step two.
  6.  Select solutions: lastly, select solutions from the options you have generated in the previous step, that address the issue described in step three, in a way that gets all parties the most of what they want as identified in step four.

To learn more about Patrick’s six step method and his thoughts on collaboration, visit his website here.

Patrick’s book recommendations

For more inspiration check out the whole episode [here], and Patrick’s book recommendations below:

Is there an issue in your life that you think you could apply Patrick’s collaboration method to? Let us know in the comments!

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Further reading