Collaboration is the currency of effectiveness in a team environment and every leader must be able to deal with it and maximize it for best results.
Leadership, in any industry and at any level is never a solo act. The very essence of leadership is in creating excellent performance by engaging others. Even when there is personal excellence in a team environment, it is rarely an outcome of talent and commitment of one individual. It is a result of many people contributing to make one person successful.
In a world that is increasingly more interdependent, more networked and more aware of the ecosystem, collaboration will prove to be the driver and the game changer for any organization or team. Collaboration may be viewed as a social imperative without which extraordinary results may just be impossible.
So how should leaders go about creating and fostering collaboration in a team and perhaps inter-team? What should a leader train to do in order to create a fertile environment for collaboration to foster?
There are three areas that a leader must train on in order to foster collaboration within the organization:
- Build Trust
- Define and enhance interdependence
- Encourage communication especially face to face communication
Collaboration, when not pursued with the right intent and behaviors could quickly deteriorate into conflict and stress and therefore collaboration, paradoxically so, requires more leadership than less.
Patrick Lencioni defines trust from a vulnerability perspective, many cultures and management gurus have viewed trust form the perspective of openness, being direct and transparent. What ever be the perspective, it does seem that relationships within and outside of the team foster on trust. Trust is the basis of all great partnerships and client-vendor relationships. Irrespective of the culture or geographical nuances, beginning with trust has always created an environment where people like to take risks and get things done.
When a leader is trained to build trust in abundance, they would often come across people who are willing to share how they feel openly, they call out mistakes and risks often and without fear and are motivated to commit to larger goals. When there is mistrust, relations suffer as doubt, fear and deceit becomes more rampant. Trust is a good indicator of the level of employee engagement you would see in an organization. Trust delivers higher level of commitment and collective results in a team. When there is trust among people, they are open to each other’s suggestions and viewpoints. They are ready to consider their own goof ups and mistakes in a positive way. And so, people are more willing to call out mistakes and appreciation for each other.
These behaviours enhance trust. Furthermore, leaders openly share their own aspirations, wants and needs, their own goof ups and vulnerabilities. Because they trust that their team does not take advantage of such personal information shared, they demonstrate trust. This further results in increased trust and that is why we say, trust begets trust.
For teamwork and collaboration to happen, it is necessary that everyone understands that they can’t do it alone! That success of one depends on the other and that there is no great individual success. There are just collective results. The second most important aspect for leader to train on and demonstrate is his or her ability to build a sense of positive mutual dependence among team members. This is best done by building goals and objectives that require continuous cooperation.
By looking at larger goals and breaking them down into action points or priorities for people based on their individual aspirations, talents and interests, it is possible to foster an environment where cooperation will bring greater results and sustained effort. A leader must also, at a cultural level, define the norms for reciprocity.
Because cooperation may involve unequal effort and rewards, with one person doing more for the other person because of the nature of the job or their capability, role etc., it is important to define the norms that do not make any one person feel exploited. This aspect has a cultural nuance to it and is usually difficult for inexperienced leaders to play with.
Because communication is becoming more virtual, dry, short and abrupt, it can lead to moments of low trust and disengagement. By encouraging face to face communication, where people do not just exchange data but load it with feelings, perspectives, moods and values, leaders can foster collaboration. By interacting more with stakeholders and with sustained face time, it is possible to enhance trust and collaboration.
When a leader trains to systematically exhibit behaviours that help them build trust, enhance interdependencies and create sustained face time, they can increase collaboration in an organization.