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How much time do you spend in collaboration?

Collaboration is usually a good thing, but as Paul Thornton warns, sometimes it can be too much of a good thing.

3 min read



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Collaboration requires a willingness of two or more people to work together to develop creative, win-win solutions. It requires trust and openness.   

Where is the fine line between doing too much collaboration and needing more collaboration?  

Too much collaboration

Some leaders overdo it. They collaborate on every problem and issue that arises. This results in lengthy discussions and multiple meetings. It’s a time-killer!

According to a Harvard Business Review article, some employees spend 80% of their time at work collaborating. 

In general, how much time should people spend collaborating?    

In an article in Fast Company, Spencer Ante said, “Over-collaboration can exhaust employees, sap morale, and decrease productivity.”  

Phil Goncalves, a former executive of commercial lending at Country Bank, said, “I know I’m over-collaborating when the team becomes less efficient. There is a point when too much discussion disables the decision workflow. Decisions don’t get made in a timely manner.” 

Excessive collaboration can also lead to groupthink. Participants go along with the group just to finish the meeting, reducing critical thinking and leading to ineffective results.  

Lack of collaboration

At the other extreme, some leaders never collaborate. They think it’s a waste of time. Their attitude is, “I’ll make the decision.” 

When this happens, employees feel felt out and let down because they didn’t have a chance to contribute their ideas. 

Have you ever felt that more collaboration on a topic would have resulted in a better decision?  

Lack of teamwork can also produce silos. People spend the bulk of their time with people in their own department. This results in missed opportunities to learn from people who work in other functions.       

Provide the right amount of collaboration

Effective leaders have a good sense of which decisions should be arrived at through joint effort and which decisions should be made alone.  

The right amount of collaboration depends on a number of factors, such as: 

  • How complex is the problem or opportunity?
  • Will collaboration produce better results? 
  • Do various stakeholders need to support the decision? 
  • How much time is available before a decision needs to be made?   
  • Who should be involved? 

What would you add to my list? 

Bill Condon, vice president of payroll at CBS, said, “My goal is to have a healthy sharing of opinions so all team members have a vested interest in the decision we make. It’s important to hear all viewpoints but also make timely decisions. It’s a judgment call as to when to close the discussion and move to a decision.”   

If your collaborations aren’t producing the desired results, you must figure out why. Get help. Solicit advice from trusted advisors. Be willing to alter your approach and try some new techniques.  

When you engage in the right amount of collaboration, people make comments like the following: 

  • “Effective collaboration improves the quality of our ideas and increases buy-in.”
  • “Collaborative efforts make me feel like part of the team.”
  • “I appreciate the benefits of collaboration so long as it doesn’t waste time.” 
  • “Collaboration builds teamwork and fosters innovation.”

When you engage in the right amount of collaboration, you produce better ideas, make better decisions and you don’t waste people’s time. 

Does that make sense?  

What changes will you try?


Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.


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