Collaborative Group Behaviors

The 100 or so Collaborative Group Behaviors fall into eight separate categories:

  1. Mission
  2. Culture
  3. Effective Interpersonal Relationships
  4. High-Quality Communication
  5. Technical Competency
  6. Productivity
  7. Problem Solving
  8. Continuous Improvement

Within each category there are many behaviors that fit into one of the following very important lists:

1. Behaviors people are demonstrating that they shouldn’t be demonstrating


2. Behaviors people are not demonstrating that they should be demonstrating

The first list includes behaviors that cause the group to continuously fall backwards, never gaining the traction to stay even. The second list actually creates forward progress for the group. Not fully addressing both sets of behaviors prevents the group from reaching towards its maximum potential. Addressing both sets of behaviors vaults the group towards mission success while simultaneously building a satisfying collaborative environment for the individual.

By addressing the first list, you stop the bleeding. You stop the overt toxicity and covert behaviors that are eating away at your group like a cancer. That might sound like an extreme statement, but chances are, if your group doesn’t operate with shared values, it may be getting by, but it won’t see its maximum potential. It’s not at all unusual that some of these behaviors are behaviors that you have learned to live with, and as you read this, you have no idea how bad it’s hurting your group.

By addressing the second list, group members are trained and supported in very particular ways that allow them to receive higher levels of responsibility. As the training and support continues group members become part of something larger than themselves and deeply enjoy the opportunity to achieve great things. Their decision making becomes very mission centered with less and less direct supervision, and they become very serious about their work and their collaboration.

Bob brought qualities such as clarity, focus, objectivity, and equitable treatment of those working for and with him on the teams he led. I learned a great deal from him about how to manage and lead. —Reverend C. Michael Woodstock

At that point the group has achieved a state of shared values, evoking an enhanced environment and bringing with it all the advantages of a collaborative culture that has group members making independent mission-centered decisions, problem solving as a group, and participating in continuous improvement that directly supports increases in productivity. Collaborative Group Behaviors promotes inclusion and offers group members control, and does so in a very honest and open way. The individual and group both flourish.

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If you want to know more keep reading…

How we communicate, or perhaps more importantly how we don’t, disables us in our attempts to teach, guide, and critique group activities. These three actions—to teach, to guide, and to critique—are the necessary components of transforming a human thought into a group outcome. The subjective nature of our language can be, and often is, deleterious to our intended group outcomes.

When we replace subjective words with action-oriented descriptions of behaviors, everything changes. Does that statement sound too bold to you?

Once we talk in terms of “behaviors,” teaching expectations about the desired outcomes that leaders want from their group members becomes more understandable. Believe it or not, once expectations are clearly understood, you have solved most of your problems.

Once we talk in terms of “behaviors,” guiding group members maximizes day-to-day mission-centered independent decision making. With full implementation, independent actions guided through Collaborative Group Behaviors “flatten” the organization. Reliability of mission accomplishment goes up and, simultaneously, the need for direct supervision is reduced. Once the capability of mission-centered independent decision making consistent with Collaborative Group Behaviors is achieved in the group you have solved the first half of the remaining problems.

Once we talk in terms of “behaviors,” the subjective pitfalls of using high levels of judgment for performance feedback are reduced. Performance feedback is now based on critiquing observed behaviors—previously agreed-upon behaviors. The behaviors are taught, and the real-world observations of those behaviors either match the description or not. The accuracy of feedback goes up, lifting the individual’s actual performance levels along with it most of the time. (And by the way, “most of the time” is more than adequate to create a highly successful group.) Once observed behaviors replace subjective language, you have solved most of the second half of the remaining problems.

Subjective statements like “have a positive attitude,” “get along with others,” “work smarter,” and “don’t be lazy” with nonspecific feedback that might include statements like “you’re not cutting it” and “you need to get your act together” turn into a downward performance spiral for the individuals of the group, bringing the group down with them.

Hardworking, well-intended people who are not getting specific descriptions of what is expected from them will then not be able to effectively give the group what it needs. That may be an obvious statement, yet it remains an issue that unknowingly plagues many groups.

Bob believes a strong workforce begins with employee empowerment. He initiated programs that increased employee’s viability. —Karl Royer

When describing each performance requirement as a behavior, we significantly reduce the subjective nature of the evaluation process that typically and horribly interrupts a leader’s ability to develop clear expectations.

Subjective statements interrupt our ability to teach what we want from others by sending confusing information about what should be clear expectations. Behaviors give us clear expectations. They are easier to teach, easier to observe, easier to emulate, and easier to record, whereas terms like “have a good attitude” don’t help anyone and in fact are the type of statements that cloud expectations. When expectations are not clear, people don’t know what to do and the job doesn’t get completed correctly. Not understanding unclear expectations is the root cause that allows for persistent poor performance on the part of the individual that is actually caused by a systemic flaw in leadership communication. This allows for the many problems groups typically face to remain unresolved today, tomorrow the next day and the day after that, allowing the same set of issues to continue to reoccur over and over.

What happens next is one of the defining elements that disables groups worldwide: a systemic failure in leadership and management shows up in the individual’s lack of performance, misleading the leader-manager to think it’s only a problem with the individual, when in fact it’s a system-wide leadership failure that remains unexposed. This is not to say that each individual’s lack of performance represents a systemic failure, but in my observations, it’s much more common than most leaders realize.

And as long as the systemic failure remains hidden, the blame game kicks into hyper-drive and you now have three problems. One, the original performance problem that needed to be solved remains unsolved; two, continued unclear expectations can’t solve the original problem; and three, as a result of the first two problems, they all get worse and ever more accentuated with misplaced blame.

With adequately trained leadership using Collaborative Group Behaviors, the group is able to fix this entire mess. When the three actions to teach, to guide, and to critique become an effective meme in the culture through the use of behaviors, transforming human thought into a group mission-centered outcome becomes routine.

Through keen insight Bob was able to sort out challenging issues and help bring positive results. —Dewitt Smith

Yet there is another reason to use Collaborative Group Behaviors:

If we are members of a group, we owe it to ourselves and others to be the best that we can be.

If you are a for-profit company: it’s the owner that pays your paycheck, the board of directors, shareholders, and customers. If you are a nonprofit organization: it’s the board of directors, donors, and the people in need of your vital services. If you are a government agency: it’s the lawmakers, the taxpayers, and the citizens you serve.

We owe them and ourselves the results that can be had by providing an enhanced environment through the use Collaborative Group Behaviors.

A group that does not place a premium on collaboration causes people who would normally be collaborative to not collaborate. In a non-collaborative group, even those who have a natural tendency towards being a collaborator will be much less likely to do so and instead will act selfishly as a form of protection. Conversely, in a group that does encourage collaboration, even those who have a tendency to not collaborate will start to collaborate. These are real-world observations supported by extensive research.

I don’t recall ever second guessing his methods or the outcome. —Mike Joyce

As will be noted more than once if you follow my work:

Our group environment determines how we are treated. How we are treated determines how we feel. How we feel determines how we think. How we feel and think will then determine our behavior. Our behavior ultimately determines our success (or failure) to collaborate. Our increased ability to collaborate creates shared values that, when focused on mission success, promote the success of the group and the individual simultaneously.

Therefore, as we enhance the environment by teaching behaviors that promote collaboration and removing destructive behaviors that cause fear, we typically respond by participating in shared values.

As Collaborative Group Behaviors move from being mere training topics during the training sessions to actual performance dimensions where every group members is held responsible for demonstrating collaborative behaviors and not demonstrating destructive behaviors, EVERYTHING CHANGES!

Collaboration is work—hard work—real work. And the stakes for the outcome of the process are often very high. —Valerie J. Young

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I have worked with Bob Donaldson and under his guidance for 20 years. During these years I interacted frequently with him and depended on him.  Bob is very goal oriented as well as a team player, and always easygoing.  He is keenly devoted to his work, but being a real people person, he is also enjoyable to be around. He is well organized and thrives under adversity. Creating a better world requires teamwork, partnerships, and collaboration. No one is better at creating this environment than Bob. What I have learned from him is that as you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. He has taught many of us that other people’s ideas are often better than our own and that when we find a group of people who challenge and inspire us, spend a lot of time with them and it will change your life.
Duane SandulPublic Outreach Specialist