RSC Level 2 Module 3: Collaborating at Work
Step 1) Overview: Most modern workplaces are built around collaboration in the workplace. While it is possible to find examples of individual work activities that can be stand-alone, independent and autonomous (for example in skilled craft areas and highly creative activities like design) it is very difficult to find examples of managers or leaders in the workplace who do not have to interact with others from different teams, divisions or business units – working collaboratively across boundaries within the company is the norm for a leader. This module identifies the skills you must develop in order to succeed in collaboration at work. Additionally, this module identifies some of the primary reasons why collaborative efforts malfunction or fail, helps you diagnose those malfunctions and gives you tips to avoid them in your work as a leader.
Step 2) Action Learning: Please watch Video A and Video B below.
Video A is an 11-minute TED segment in which Professor Andrew Campbell from Ashridge Executive Education introduces you to the most effective way of thinking about collaboration in the workplace. You want to analyze your working relationships, engage in introspection to learn your own attitude towards the relationship, prepare and practice prompts to help orient yourself appropriately, and learn how to communicate effectively. It is very important to adopt an analytical approach to relationships and in many ways collaboration with others is all about knowing yourself and preparing yourself to function effectively while working with others. In the modern workplace we must recognize that virtual collaboration is quite challenging because a large proportion of the cues we get in a collaborative relationship come from body language which is missing in most virtual collaboration.
Video B is a 9-minute segment from Ashridge’s Professor Campbell which explores the reasons why collaborations malfunction. Collaboration in the workplace must be driven by a business case: you have to examine collaboration from the perspective of its overall pay-off for the company. There is a turf-and-territory aspect to collaboration that emphasizes equity and fairness. Trust is often the stumbling block in a collaborative relationship. There are 4 components to trust: integrity, intent, capability and results. An important consideration for a leader is to ask the questions, “Has my past behavior frightened them?” or “Has their past behavior frightened me?”
Step 3) Points to Ponder:
1) How would you characterize your workplace culture – highly collaborative, moderately collaborative or not at all collaborative? Give us some examples to support your view.
2) Trust is critically important in collaboration: give us some examples of situations you experienced where trust was either created or destroyed (either by you or by someone else). Any lessons learned?
3) Professor Campbell makes an important point about the use of prompts to prepare for engaging in appropriate behavior: for example we dress in a particular way for a funeral and that helps us mentally prepare for exhibiting the appropriate behavior at the funeral. He suggests the use of prompts to prepare mentally for adopting the most appropriate attitude in dealing with a specific collaboration. Discuss the usefulness (or lack thereof) of this approach.
4) Do you have any experience of virtual collaboration – a work situation in which you had to collaborate to produce results, but the collaboration was mediated by technology and you had minimal facial expressions or body language to help you understand your partner in the collaboration? How did you deal with this situation? Any lessons learned?
Step 4) Interactive Discussion:
After viewing Videos A & B and exploring the Points to Ponder check your calendar for the Interactive Discussion scheduled for this Module. Go to the session prepared to discuss the lessons learned with others in your Rising Star cohort. If you have any questions or need more information please send a message to
Step 5) Next Level: (Optional): Read the reference “Boundaries need not be barriers: Leading collaboration among groups in decentralized organizations” by H.M. Caruso, T. Rogers and M.H. Bazerman, Chapter 9 in the book “Crossing the divide: Intergroup leadership in a world of difference” edited by T.L. Pittinsky published by Harvard Business Review Press (2009) ISBN-13: 978-1422138083