One Health is composed mainly by collaboration of stakeholders, academicians, researchers, and students from multiple sectors involving human health, animal health, and environmental health. By definition, collaboration is the act or process of working together with other people or organizations to achieve a common purpose such as creating something or pursuing an intellectual endeavor. Thus, collaboration requires a cohesive team to follow a common process in working toward a shared goal.
Collaboration seems like a good idea to achieve the big dream of One Health. But what are the most common barriers to collaboration?
Problem No. 1: A Lack of Respect and Trust
Collaboration is based on successful and interpersonal relationships which subsequently require mutual trust and respect. Sadly, sometimes we have lack of respect for others who are different from us, either because of differences in age, gender, race, or maybe ethnicity. Different backgrounds or professional roles may also cause cultural divides in workplace. Often, the supremacy of the preeminent function results in those belonging to that privileged function—or perhaps even the entire organization—having diminished respect for people working in other roles, making them second-class corporate citizens. In the worst work cultures, this problem can assume the magnitude of a caste system.
In order to tackle this problem, we can arrange regular interactions between leaders of different divisions to ensure that they understand the roles and value each team provide, establish open communication, and develop respectful relationship within their peers. We can also arrange project teams that can cross-pollinate ideas from different teams to stimulate innovation and also establish better interpersonal communication across teams.
Problem No. 2: Different Mindsets
Diversity of viewpoint is actually an asset for any team. With different perspectives, we can see different dimensions of the problems and come up with unique solutions for them. Yet, diverse mindsets can also lead us to potential misunderstandings. When teammates’ mindsets feel at odds with one another, these differences can seem threatening and engender fear, resistance, and even anger. For example, people who are biased against creativity may show contempt for or belittle others’ ideas because they feel threatened by them.
The solution is to foster greater understanding between people with different mindsets can resolve conflicts that result from their differences. This can be done through resolving conflicts fairly, positively reinforcing everyone’s efforts to contribute ideas, appreciating people’s unique strengths, and most importantly, endeavor to understand teammates whose mindsets differ from yours—whether because of their training and role or demographic differences.
Problem No. 3: Poor Listening Skills
Collaboration is impossible without good communication skill and the key to it is the ability to listen well. Listening means accurately receiving and interpreting what people say. The challenge that can arise might be some team members with big egos don’t really value the opinions of their peers and, thus, may be unwilling to listen to others. They seem distracted, inattentive, and do not engage with whoever is currently speaking. They often interrupt, making comments or asking questions that take the conversation off track. They exhibit bias, jump to conclusions, and finish others’ sentences. They show no empathy for those who are speaking. They provide no encouraging feedback. Their responses to others’ ideas may be judgmental or dismissive.
The solution is to practice active listening, show empathy, give full attention to the speaker, have only one conversation at a time, focus on what the current speaker is saying rather than thinking about your reply, be patient and not interrupting. We can also try to recall key points and reflect them back to the speaker—paraphrasing or summarizing them—or mention them later in the conversation to ensure others feel heard and understood.
So, are you ready to tackle those common collaboration challenges in order to achieve better future?