Collaboration is a sticky wicket. Seldom is the time when we don’t want to be collaborating more effectively. We want to do what we do better. Quicker. More effectively. With more impact.

We talk about collaboration a lot, and I think we like to tell ourselves we are good, kind and empathetic collaborators. We are not.

Let’s remind ourselves, there are lots of ways to be more collaborative. From making better use of technology, to communicating more effectively, to thinking of new ways to be sharing. We can always be exploring innovative ways to work with other people and teams.

But that’s a lot of things to be thinking about. Maybe instead we could be thinking about one thing. One specific thing. Because if we do this one thing, this one incredibly important, powerful thing, it will lead to more team work, more partnership and more collaboration.

Be transparent.

Don’t be a little transparent, be a lot transparent. Lead with transparency. Embrace transparency. Talk about transparency. Brag about transparency. Just…be transparent. There are different ways this can be done.

Always share what you are working on.
Yes, we want our work to represent the very best of who we are, and what we do. Sharing your work before it’s done may reveal your mistakes, and maybe even your shortcomings. You have not had a chance to do all your research, and ensure the information you are sharing in a report or presentation is accurate.Who cares.Share your work before its done. Get input from your colleagues on your ideas and process. Find out what they are working. Be generous, and be curious.

When in doubt, share. If you think maybe your colleague should be aware of what you are working on, put maybe away. Tell your colleague. Time will be saved, and you will find yourself getting work done better, smarter and quicker.

Always be curious.
Transparency only works when you have someone to be transparent with. It’s not just about you giving others access to your work, but others need to give you access to their work. This may be something you need to make time to do. Set as a calendar item. A task on your to do list. Collaboration and transparency is a two way street, and every person in an organization needs to be transparent, and every person needs to plan to take advantage of the transparency of others. Open the floodgates. Let the mighty rivers of information flow!

Always be strategic.
You are not being transparent just to show your colleagues that you can be transparent. What do you hope to learn through your transparency? What do you hope to gain? How can your work best be framed through your transparency to get the feedback that will help you the most.

During a recent episode of Adam Grant’s excellent WorkLife podcast, he talked about the extreme, radical transparency of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund. Founder Ray Dalio is fully committed to running a transparent organization. Every single meeting is video taped and made available for everyone in the organization to watch. An employee can be fired for criticizing other employees behind their back, rather than to their face. All staff routinely critique their colleagues on a proprietary app, and the results are shared with the entire company.

As highlighted on the podcast , one manager was called out at an all staff retreat for being the worst manager in the company. The person making the presentation wondered aloud if that manager should even still be working at Bridgewater. That manager was in the the room, and the meeting (as usual) was recorded. In front of everyone, the manager expressed appreciation for the feedback, said that it made sense he would be bottom on the list. He said “This leaves me more energized versus not.”

That manager, Kiran Rao, is still at Bridgewater and says that hearing that news, in front of 200 of his colleagues, was “dressing for the beach one day in flip flops and your swimwear and you swing your door open and you’re in a full-force winter storm. It felt great.” The result of Kiran hearing that feedback, in such a transparent way, is that he improved at his job. More information was shared, and he had an opportunity to grow and improve.

Radical transparency like they have at Bridgewater is certainly not for everyone, and it is not for every organization. Transparency can be difficult, and sometimes painful, but the rewards are plenty. More awareness, more information, more connection. Let the mighty rivers flow.

Be transparent.

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