I gave some really great advice last week, right here in this blog!

In my article “An Unfinished Test, and a Single Source of Truth” I talked about how it is so much easier and effective to share a link to a file stored in the cloud rather than to attach that same file to an email. Whether we just want someone else to see the file, or we need to collaborate on the file with colleagues, sharing a link is always the best way to work.

When colleagues have a link to a shared file, everyone is now looking at the same information. We have a “single source of truth.” A document we all know to be current and correct.

If a file is shared by attaching it to an email, each user now has to save their own version of that file and make their own changes that are just going to have to be tracked by someone else alongside all the changes that everyone else on the team made. We don’t know what the “truth” might be. Whether you use Google, Office 365, Apple, DropBox, or any other file sharing utility, we all have the power to make collaboration easier, and more effective.

Great advice. I sure can tell a good story, and I can sure provide some sage guidance on how to work better. Share a link, don’t attach a file. Great. But how do we actually make that change?

Without a doubt, it is easier said than done.

Attaching a file for collaboration is so much more complicated, involved and troublesome than just pasting a link, and yet it is exactly what so many of us do without even pausing to consider a different way. We do the more difficult thing, because…well, that is what we do. We have always worked this way, and changing feels so much harder than just doing the thing we have always done, even though the thing we have always done does not work well, and ultimately takes more time, effort and trouble.

And yet, making these changes is time and work well spent. Maybe these

  1. Doctor, heal thyself. Once you have recognized that this it is, in fact, better to share a link rather than to attach a file, then you need to do it first. If you wait for your colleagues to start working in a new way just because you have encouraged them to do so, it will never happen. Someone has to be the first. It has to be you. Make sure all your files are stored in shareable drives. Keep a note on your computer, on your phone, on your wall, on your external monitor that says “SHARE, DON’T ATTACH,” and then get to work.
  2. Sell your C-Suite. It will be valuable for you to lead the way on the behavior you want to see throughout the team. It will be even more valuable when it is done by the CEO or Vice-Presidents of your organization. Explain the functionality to the leaders of your organization, and work with their support teams to help that transition happen. Provide easy tips on how to do work in this new, more effective way, and check back in often to answer questions and respond to concerns.
  3. Don’t work with attached files. When you are encouraging others to work in a new way, and they still work in the old way…well, don’t work with them in the old way. If they send you an attached file for collaboration, simply respond with a note that suggests you will be happy to share your input, but please first send a link to a shared version of the file so we can all easily keep track of changes and revisions.
  4. Recognize good behavior. When a link is shared by a member of your team rather than having a file attached, recognize and reward the behavior. Make sure the rest of the team is aware that someone is working in a way that makes you and the CEO happy, and make it clear that such accolades will be shared for the next person who successfully adopts, or at least tries to adopt, these new work behaviors.
  5. Make it part of the plan. And then the next project needs to start, and you need to share a plan with the team on how this new work will get done. Make it clear that each step can only be completed if files are not emailed back and forth, and the next step can only begin if files are stored in sharable drives, so links can be effectively shared.

We like to think that just because we have introduced a new platform at work, or just because we have announced a more productive way to work, our colleagues will fall over each other thanking us for our good work and will adopt new behaviors and ways to work immediately. But this is not Field of Dreams, and just because we have “built it” does not mean they will necessarily come.

Encourage new ways to work, but be prepared to support your team with a strategy that will make these new methods of work feel safe and productive.

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