Collaboration is working together in a climate of trust to achieve a goal as a team. It is not simply scheduling a meeting to discuss an issue when you already have an answer. It’s not about putting an item on an agenda and saying you ‘collaborated’. It isn’t about simply using the word more often in discussions and then seeing it magically happen.
Collaboration is about intentionally teaming up with your colleagues. It’s about knowing that alone we may have good ideas and bring our own expertise to the table, but together we are better because we can bring different perspectives, ideas and combine them to produce better solutions. This intentional collaboration is really all about trust. It comes back to the climate of your organization and the belief that every person is valued.
A true leader brings the best out in all their team members. They don’t come to a meeting to dictate, or intimidate, or push the discussion in one direction. True leaders bring people together to get things done, not to rubber stamp what they already figured out on their own. We’ve all been on those committees that were productive only in the minutes that were produced, not in the collaboration and rich brainstorming that was realized. Many of these same meetings could have been achieved through email, since there was never any intention of productive collaboration happening anyway.
As educators we often have strong beliefs and are use to being leaders either in our classrooms, buildings, or districts. When we work with our colleagues, whether it is during committee, administrative, or planning meetings, we need to value all the ideas that are brought to the table.
We also have to remember that if your organization doesn’t have a trust oriented climate, you need to build it. Start out with building a collaborative climate with a group/staff that you have the most control of. If you are a teacher, start with your team/colleagues. If you are a building principal start with your building teams and teachers. If you are a district administrator start with the teams you directly work with. Start out in the zone you have the most influence over and build trust by showing you value the team and their ideas. Building trust where there may not have been any will not happen over night but it will be worth the time you put into it.