Leadership advice

Manager-to-Manager: Are you a collaborator or a competitor?

Advice from Jill Geisler, Bill Plante Chair in Leadership & Media Integrity, Loyola University Chicago and Freedom Forum Fellow in Women’s Leadership

In an ideal world, managers look out for each other. They understand one another’s responsibilities, joys and challenges. They are inclined to say yes to requests for help. They communicate clearly, so everyone’s viewpoints are understood, even when they conflict. 

And they do conflict. Resources may be limited. Visions of success might differ. 

One manager’s advocacy for his or her team members may seem to put their interests above others.

In the idea factory of a newsroom, there’s always give-and-take about what’s interesting, what’s innovative, what’s worth extra time and effort. Managers of various teams, desks, or projects may not always agree. 

How they deal with those tensions is a test of their leadership skills – especially emotional intelligence, communication and conflict resolution. 

It can set the tone for how their respective staff members interact, too.

It can make the difference between an organization with healthy, collaborative teams, and one with self-contained silos.

Some tips for aspiring collaborative managers:

  • Connect with one another routinely, not just when you need something.
  • Invite your colleagues to learn about your team and its work.
  • Understand how your team meets theirs in the organization’s workflow – and make sure your staff does, too. 
  • Give other managers a “heads up” when something related to your team’s work could have an impact on theirs.
  • Strive for reciprocity. I’ve written before about the “give and get ledger” that people keep in their heads. Make sure yours is in balance with your colleagues’ when it comes to doing favors.
  • Whenever differences arise, step away from your keyboard. Talk, don’t text.
  • Try to resolve conflicts between/among you before escalating them to your boss.
  • Don’t let disagreements fester. Passive aggressive behaviors like the silent treatment can be as bad as plain old aggressive behaviors like bad-mouthing colleagues to their faces or behind their backs.
  • When your team has a win, make certain to give credit to other teams that contributed, even in a small way, to the success.

Here’s the bonus to collaboration, something collegial managers know: Not only does it make your management responsibilities easier and more enjoyable, you just might make some friends for life.


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2 years ago

Fabulous Jill! I particularly like striving for reciprocity — lending help when a colleague is brave enough to ask for it breeds goodwill. Camaraderie is contagious!