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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.
“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. These resources and tools provide structured ways to do that:
- “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 a student version of the User Manual that is terrific for use with student groups, and another faculty/staff version of the User Manual that 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 any team work on attending to the overall health of the team while also getting things done.
Empathic communication is key to all collaborative work. Here are some resources for developing your and your team’s communication skills:
- “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 some exercises for groups to practice effective listening and communication skills. It is geared specifically 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:
- “Leading in a Diverse Community” Video—In partnership with Toby Davis from the Office of Equity and Inclusion, we developed this video for student leaders to begin reflecting on their own identities and learning to be conscious of how to practice inclusive leadership of their peers.
- Tips for Inclusive Leadership
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.