Posted by Steve Botham
August 12th, 2009
Fad words seem to enter the language on an almost daily basis - and there are many to choose from in the world of management speak. A current favourite is “collaboration” and we can understand why it has risen up the “fad words hit parade”. Collaboration is about bringing different agendas and experiences together to produce shared outcomes. We can see it at many levels; from collaboration within different departments through to collaboration between departments and directorates. There is clearly a growing focus on collaboration between different parts of the public sector - not forgetting collaboration with the wider public themselves. In the commercial field strategic alliances are growing.
Collaboration makes a lot of sense. Within departments teams need to be proactive in sharing information, ensuring colleagues are aware of risks and emerging issues, and working together to achieve results for the team whilst protecting its credibility with clients. At leadership level collaboration is a central element of a high performing team. Dysfunctional teams do not collaborate, they hide information from each other, they do not follow up on decisions they agreed together, they reach compromises rather than commitment. A truly collaborative team shares accountability and is therefore proactive in supporting each other so that they can create a high level of focus on delivery.
Collaboration will be a key element in surviving turbulent times. Leaders will need the input, the ideas, the challenges, the support and the energy of colleagues. Marshall Goldsmith commented that in today’s world as we progress in our organisations, what got us into our role - our technical ability - will not be what moves us forward. Leaders technical ability is assumed, he argues, it is their relationship building ability that makes all the difference.
Many organisational leaders are sociable and outgoing and can network well. But it is not universally true. What is true is that every leader needs to be a key player in the brave new world of collaboration. So is this the sound of a heavy door closing on the career aspirations of introvert but ambitious managers and leaders? Not necessarily so. We work with a lot of organisations and individuals in the field of change. It is clear that change comes to a halt when individuals fail to turn good intentions and good plans into specific actions. As the Chinese famously say “Each journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”.
What are the deliberate actions you can take to ensure you are seen as a contributor to greater collaboration?
I suggest there are five key steps to getting you started.
1. Draw up a list of your key network or main stakeholders (you may wish to construct a table)
2. Against each one ask: what do I know about their key priorities and concerns - what do I need to know?
3. Then ask: how well do they understand my priorities and concerns - how can I improve their understanding and (more importantly) gain their support?
4. What can I do proactively to develop collaboration - how can I ensure this is seen as open, supportive and relationship building (avoiding impersonal emails and circulars)?
5. What do I need to do to my time to ensure I give enough attention to collaborative working?
Collaboration will be key. As has been said “change works in units of one” - it starts with the leaders in organisations acting as role models of collaboration and moves to their whole team being seen as integral to future success.
Image: ’ants carrying a fly’ by adelle roux on flickr.com