Jim-expert1 Jim Tamm, President of RC Group, LLC, Author and Expert in Building Collaborative Workplace Environments #035: Building Cultures of Radical Collaboration in Teams and Organizations Join Dr. Krister Lowe and today’s guest and leading organizational coach, Jim Tamm, for this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast.  Jim Tamm is the President of RC Group, LLC with training partners in 18 countries.  He specializes in building cultures of collaboration within organizations and training other consultants and trainers how to teach collaborative skills.  Fast Company Magazine described Jim Tamm as an “Ace Relationship Builder”. For most of his career he was a Senior Administrative Law Judge for the State of California with jurisdiction over workplace disputes.  He is currently on the faculty of the International Management Program of the Stockholm School of Economics, the Management Education Program at NASA, and the Leadership Academy of the University of California.  His book, Radical Collaboration, has been on Amazon’s top seller lists for organizational psychology and collaboration books for much of the past nine years. In this episode of the podcast Jim shares a range of insights into building cultures of collaboration in teams and organizations.  Among the topics covered include: the Radical Collaboration approach; 5 skills for effective collaboration (Collaborative Intention, Truthfulness, Self-Accountability, Self-Awareness, Negotiation and Problem-Solving); red zone and green zone modes; the crucial role of defensiveness, stories of hits and misses working with teams and organizations; the factors that lead to culture change and more. This is a rich episode with a range of practical tips, techniques and resources that will help every team coach take their coaching practice to the next level.  It’s an episode you will surely not want to miss! Listen Now
Contact Jim


  1. Tamm, J.W. & Luyet, R.J. (2005). Radical Collaboration: Five Essential Skills to Overcome Defensiveness and Building Successful Relationships.
  2. TED Talk by Jim Tamm on Cultivating Collaboration





Part 1 – Getting to Know the Coach: Jim Tamm


  • Based in California, Sweden, and Mexico
  • President of RC Group LLC, has training partners in 18 countries
  • Specialty in building cultures of collaboration within organizations and training other consultants and trainers how to teach collaboration skills
  • Previously was a senior administrative law judge in California and decisions have impacted labor policy in the US
  • On faculty of international management program of the Stockholm School of Economics, Management Education Program at NASA, and the Leadership Academy of the University of California
  • Book: “Radical Collaboration” on Amazon top seller list for much of last nine years


  • Hadn’t anticipated this career – started with GE, then worked in labor relations which led him to go to law school
  • Worked for National Labor Relations Board, then for state of California and became a judge
  • When he retired he went back to working in industry and got involved in conflict resolution
  • “I get to work with people who are trying to change the world”
  • Enjoys working with people before they encounter challenges, rather than after
  • There seems to be more awareness of being effective at collaborating now than in the past
  • External collaboration can’t happen if the internal collaboration isn’t there – it improves competitiveness
  • What makes some organizations better than others at conflict resolution and collaboration?
  • While working for the state of California, applied for grants and had great success working to make certain organizations more effective at collaborating which saved CA money in dispute resolution costs
  • First was involved as a judge with a non-profit called the California Foundation for Improvement of Employee-Employer Relations, then was managing director of a consulting firm, then founded his own firm
  • Teaches, trains other coaches, and has some global clients
  • Has a TED talk
  • Connection with Ethan Schutz – worked with his father Will Schutz’s company (creator of FIRO theory); through that work was invited to bring his work to Sweden
  • Cross-cutting theme around collaboration: how to create dynamic, proactive relationships?
  • Collaboration is key
  • Certain skills lead to better collaboration
  • Business imperative: collaboration became much more obviously necessary during the economic downturn

Part 2 – Perspectives on Coaching and Team Coaching

Radical Collaboration

  • Five skills identified for effective collaboration
  1. Collaborative Intention: focusing on mutual gains in working relationships (when it gets difficult do you get furious or stay curious? Red zone or green zone?) Students in Sweden were asked to observe which ‘zone’ they were in and over time they were more and more able to be in a collaborative place where they looked for mutual gain instead of retreating to the red zone
  2. Truthfulness: being able to create an environment where it’s safe enough for people to raise difficult issues. Have to be willing to talk about problems when they arise. Will Schutz: it’s effective to increase the level of openness in an organization
  3. Self-Accountability: being aware of the choices that employees have available to them and that they’re making. A lot of the time people don’t feel they are taking action (non-action is still a choice). People don’t always know the range of choices they have – changing people’s belief systems about this is helpful. Learned a lot about this through union strike negotiations. When people are held accountable for the choices they’re making, they complain less and take more accountability. Need to be accountable for intended and unintended consequences
  4. Self-Awareness: FIRO theory – helping people see how they react when working with others (especially around inclusion, control, and openness).  Understanding preferences and being flexible about them.  Defensiveness: destroys problem-solving (this seems to be the key to making things easier)
  5. Negotiating and Problem-Solving: There’s bound to be conflict in any working relationship. How to negotiate conflict in a way that supports the relationship rather than undermining it. Work to get your interests met but do it in a flexible way

Training Approach

  • Mistake: Early on work with California school districts: mistake in thinking that teaching groups to negotiate conflict would solve the problem, but realized that if people brought a negative attitude it wouldn’t work. Now more of a focus on interpersonal skills
  • When he first started out in California, it was a 5-day program
  • Now more of a 3-day program, or works with bigger leadership program and teaches segments
  • Success stories:
    • The power of follow-up: going in a year later to stay in contact to see through anecdotal situations how the training is being implemented
    • Before and after self-report assessment in Berkley –
      • Before training: 70% said working relationships were adversarial; After: less than 1% said so
      • Before: 10% said they had high trust in their working relationships; After: 62%
      • Before: 6% effective communications at work; After: 71%
    • Impact of training on a broad scale in California
      • Within 94 organizations the rate of reduction in measurable conflict reduced by 67% over 3-year period
    • Current work with global organizations in Northern Europe
      • How good at managing defensiveness and conflict between themselves and others—over 30% improvement
      • How good at getting interests met in conflict – over 20% improvement
      • Becoming more effective at these skills helps organizations, but also has a huge impact on the individuals within the organizations
    • How to measure effectiveness of a team?
      • Products & Services, also Capability, Sustainability
      • Investment in leaders shows up across a broad range of metrics
    • Big lesson learned: importance of building sustainability into the process
      • Comparing two groups – one with follow up and one without
      • With follow up, improvement almost double than without
      • Staying in contact with the client helps keep new skills in their awareness
      • Internalizing new skills and ideas to create behavior change
    • Organizations don’t collaborate – people within organizations do
      • Helping individuals get better at dealing with their own defensiveness is the most fundamental thing
      • Helping people deal with fears they have within themselves related to: significance, competence, likability
      • Helpful to get individuals to recognize when they’re being defensive – warning signs (faster breathing, feeling misunderstood, etc)
        • Then can create strategies to deal with these signs of defensiveness depending on individual warning signs

Creating Cultures of Collaboration

  • Conflict, Decision making, Communication, Trust, etc are all related to collaboration
  • How to encode skill in culture?
  • Combination of leadership, skill-building, reinforcement required to change culture – intention is not enough
  • Top-down is ideal but don’t always have this luxury
  • Look for most effective team within the organization and start with them; OR work with the least competent organization to try to turn them around
  • Exploit successes to spread the word and demonstrate successes
  • It takes an ongoing effort to create culture change; have to create systemic change

“Radical Collaboration”

  • Started 15-20 years ago: levels of collaboration they were asking for was radical, as was the impact
  • Now it’s more commonplace to use these techniques to push for changes in collaboration

What’s exciting to you now?

  • Loves teaching others to teach the skills – working with hundreds of consultants in Sweden and it’s exciting to see the impact that could have
  • Seeing the impact that the 5 skills have in modern organizations is very exciting
  • TED talk was great
  • New assessment: combination of radical collaboration skills and something called a Harrison assessment
    • Trying to figure out the traits that are helpful for people in collaboration
    • Comes out in a few months
  • Diagnostic tool called the Collaborative Skills Climate Survey: diagnosing skill levels, as well as gaps between current effectiveness and where people think they need to be
  • Training programs: 3-day Radical Collaboration training, 7-day Certification program

Part 3 – Words of Wisdom & Contact

  • Behind conflict resolution is building positive relationships so you can deal more effectively with conflict
  • www.radicalcollaboration.com

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