My brain is a muscle

Last week Marie and I teamed up to develop a framework for effective collaboration. The exercise that led to our draft framework consisted of two basic but super important questions: 1) What was your best experience collaborating with others? 2) Why was it so great? The exercise allowed me to practice my active listening skills and work with my fellow bootcamper to generate questions and find points of divergence and convergence in our answers. More importantly, we charted questions to help us think through and analyze our framework. The process of writing our ideas down, wrestling with them together and receiving supportive coaching along the way really helped. It also reminded me that this really is bootcamp. I actually felt mentally sore and achy afterward.

We came to consensus on a number of elements for our “working” framework:

  • The ability to co-create and/or participate in the creation of something (like an idea or plan)
  • The opportunity to contribute without regard to position or expertise
  • Structures that are flexible and fluid
  • Working toward a meaningful result

After interviewing a number of my colleagues, I’d like to consider adding the following:

  • Shared values 
  • Sense of mission

Having to come up with generative questions as part of this exercise was really instructive and a few things clicked for me. I realized that my active listening skills could use some work and that while I pride myself in being a better than average listener, I am not always as present as I should be in certain settings. I believe that active listening requires a person to use all their senses and be fully present to what’s being said and what’s not being said. I think active listening is enhanced when a listener is able to pose strategic questions that work to open up conversations to more opportunities or possibilities. I am clearer about the importance and usefulness of asking strategic questions that aren’t skewed toward your biases or peppered with your assumptions. When I reviewed my list of questions generated during our first bootcamp workout, I realized that many of my questions have a lot of assumptions built into them and that those assumptions can be quite limiting. One of them was “How do staff feel about the opportunities to work collaboratively?” I now see that this is not necessarily an effective question. I reworked it and came up with “What will it take for us to work together as a team?” and “How do we want to work together?”

I’ve got bootcamp runner’s high. I am so excited about the next workout!

4 thoughts on “My brain is a muscle

  1. eekim

    The title of this post — which so beautifully encapsulated your progress this past week — makes me very happy. 🙂 Don’t forget Ground Rule #1, and be careful of the “should” word! (E.g. “I’m not always as present as I should be in certain settings.”) “Could” is much better. Who’s to say where you “should” be?

    1. anna341bc

      Thanks for the reminder, Eugene. “Could” is definitely much better. I’ve done a lot of beating up on myself lately. I think I’ll make a t-shirt that says, “Remember Ground Rule #1”.

  2. Petz

    Hi Anna! Just wanted to drop you a quick note and say how much I’ve enjoyed following your journey here! You do a great job weaving in the bootcamp metaphors to your reflections, which definitely helps deepen my understanding, and I appreciate how transparent you’ve been in the ups and downs of the whole journey. Definitely helps us all learn when someone is willing to be courageous and name what is hard and challenging, not just what went well. So thanks!

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