3 Words to Avoid in a Collaborative Setting

Conflict is key to collaboration. Otherwise, it’d just be one person talking and everyone else listening. A healthy advisory board is one where members disagree with each other and challenge each other. The key is keeping things productive, and the words we use (or don’t use) can be the key. Here are three words to avoid when sitting around the table in order to ensure a collaborative setting:

1. No

“No” is like a giant brick falling down on an idea and crushing it into oblivion. There’s nowhere to go from a no other than “well, yes…,” which leads to a louder no. Before you know it, there’s an impossible impasse, which leads nowhere.

Encourage your members to replace “no” with “yes, and…” It’s an old improv trick that uses not-so-good ideas as a springboard to something better and keeps the originator of the not-so-good idea from feeling rejected. Quite the opposite, in fact, because once they’re yes-anded, they can yes-and right back. And voila, collaboration.

2. We

You brought your members together so you could get their opinions, not what someone else thinks their opinions are. You should be encouraging everyone to speak for themselves, and not have one person speak on behalf of others. It’s never, “We think…” It’s “I think…”

In group work situations, you should get everyone in the group to share their opinions individually. They may wind up saying something off the cuff that leads the discussion in a different direction. And even if they say, “I agree with everything that’s just been said,” at least they’re having their voice heard. This is key to collaboration and creating a creative, collaborative setting.

3. Fine

When someone throws up their hands and says “fine,” they’re settling for something they don’t really believe in, whether it’s an opinion or a direction. You should instead be looking for a resounding and enthusiastic “ok!” and you shouldn’t stop talking until you get it from everyone in the boardroom. If someone resounds themselves to “fine,” they have more to say on the issue. Let them.

Before your advisory board or working group begins, share these three no-nos with your members and be sure to explain why. You’ll find the collaboration will go a lot smoother and you’ll get more from each member.

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