The secret to effectively leading collaboration at work is finding a middle ground between too much and too little team think but frankly work that requires input from multiple people, or brainstorming sessions where the group decides a matter, are generally loathed. That’s why silos exist.
Perhaps it’s not surprising as consider the first time anybody asked you to work on a project with someone else. It was likely back in third grade, when a teacher teamed you up with some others to write a paper or build a contraption to drop an egg off the top of a desk onto a hard floor. Chances are, some of you did all the work and the others sat back and waited to take the credit, or in the event of a broken egg, distance themselves from the result.
Those early demotivating experiences set the stage for disliking team projects in the future, but few leaders truly know how to help people collaborate more effectively. Many times leaders will tell people to work together, but then don’t tell them how.
If better collaboration is one of your goals as a leader, you must start by coaching and inspiring others to understand the benefits and to understand what it is going to take, like truly believing that someone else’s idea can be better than yours for example.
Collaboration, to be effective, requires that you give employees control, you be honest with them and then allow those employees to work together to solve problems. No rocket science involved here then….
To successfully promote collaboration, leaders must actively endorse a business model where good ideas come out of working together. They must also demonstrate that real collaboration equals innovation and innovation is always needed to be a sustainable organization.
When working on developing a collaborative culture, leaders must regularly check in with teams to watch for problem signs and those problems might not always be obvious. A subtle breakdown can occur when, for example, the most creative and valuable team member is afraid to speak up while the least-creative employee is the most talkative. Good leaders will ask for regular feedback on member interaction as well as team progress.
Somewhat less obvious is the need for leaders to be comfortable encouraging conflict as opposing perspectives are valuable. The reality is that employees need to learn to disagree with each other and in a way that remains respectful. This is conducive friction which is a positive friction resulting in better outcomes because multiple perspectives have been considered and individual biases put to one side.
Not many companies can pull off good collaboration, but those who do have plenty of reason to brag.