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Collaborative Leadership Resources

At the Wurtele Center for Leadership, we are in a constant state of learning and exploration around the nuances and strategies of collaborative leadership. Below are some resources that we have either created or collected to assist Smith College community members in their collaborative leadership and learning endeavors.

Forms of Collaboration

“Collaboration” is a term that is used to describe a wide range of team arrangements, which can lead to confusion when one team member means one thing by the term and another means something entirely different. We created a “Forms of Collaboration” graphic to delineate different forms of collaboration along a spectrum of autonomy and integration. The graphic is accompanied by a set of discussion questions, which can be used with groups of students, teams of staff members, academic departments or anyone else working toward a collaborative effort.

Teams that collaborate on a project often jump straight into “task mode,” without taking the time to understand one another and establish a common set of expectations for how they will work together. Research shows, however, how important it is to do the “maintenance” work necessary to establish a culture of psychological safety on a team before beginning work together. Here are structured ways to do this.

  • “Creating a Toolkit for Team Alignment” Video—We created this video for student leaders at Smith, but it includes a number of strategies for getting started with any team.
  • The User Manual—We often like to begin a project with a new team by having each member fill out and share a “user manual” for working with them. We have astudent version of the User Manual that is terrific for use with student groups, and another faculty/staff version of the User Manualthat goes into greater depth.
  • Group Norms Worksheet—Use this worksheet with your team to help you establish some team agreements or norms around how you want to collaborate with one another.
  • Task & Maintenance Exercise—This exercise introduces the concepts of “task” and “maintenance” modes in groups (a concept we’ve adopted from the great work of our friends at Leadership+Design). Use this to help attend to the overall health of the team while also getting things done.

Empathic communication is key to all collaborative work for you and your team.

  • “Communication 101” Video—With the help of Emily Norton from the Design Thinking Initiative, we created this video for student leaders at Smith, to help them think about and practice empathic listening and communication with their peers.
  • Communication Practices—This document offers exercises for groups to practice effective listening and communication skills. It is geared toward student leaders, but it could be modified for other groups or teams.

Identity and cultural competency play an important role in how we lead and work collaboratively in teams. Here are some resources for developing skills to lead collaboratively in a diverse community:

Tensions and conflict are natural parts of working collaboratively with others. Instead of fearing and avoiding conflict, collaborative leaders work to embrace and harness conflict in order to move a group forward. We teamed up with Stacey Steinbach in Student Affairs to create a video for student leaders to help them begin to feel comfortable managing conflict.

Leading collaboratively means gathering as a team frequently to put our heads together, brainstorm ideas, make decisions and connect with one another. Collaborative leaders therefore design a lot of meetings.

Get the most out of your meetings by thinking carefully about how you design a meeting experience. See the Intentional Meeting Design Handbook we created for student leaders to help them design meetings that are intentional and enjoyable.

Leadership Development Fund

What is the fund for?
Currently enrolled Smith College students can apply for up to $300 per academic year to support their participation in professional conferences or seminars focused on collaborative leadership development.

What types of experiences qualify?
Professional conferences (attending or presenting) and seminars with a specific focus on leadership development (virtual or in person). Students interested in participating in interactive learning experiences that are in-person and that emphasize collaborative approaches to leadership are especially encouraged to apply. 

How much is available?
The Wurtele Leadership Development Fund provides up to $3,000 total annually to Smith students. Students can apply for one grant of up to $300 per academic year while enrolled at Smith College. 

Who is eligible to apply?
Currently enrolled Smith College students not on leave or study abroad during the proposed activity period are eligible to apply. Experiences for which funds are requested can take place during the summer; however, seniors may not apply for funds to cover experiences that will take place after graduation.

Expectations of students awarded funds?
Students will be expected to complete the Funding Follow Up Form (available on the Smith Social Network) within 7 business days of using the funding. The form will ask you to submit a final expense report and any receipts for reimbursement. The Wurtele Center will also follow up with you directly with a brief feedback and reflection form after you have submitted the Funding Follow Up Form. This will be sent to you as a Google form and will ask you to touch on what you found most valuable about the experience and how it has supported your development as a leader. Students who would like to present what they have learned or facilitate a peer workshop of some kind are encouraged to do so; Wurtele Center staff are happy to help you develop that experience, so please let us know if you are interested.

How do I apply?
Students applying for funding should use the Universal Conference Fund Application