By Lee Ellis
Why does it seem more challenging than ever to collaborate? As fantastic as technology can be, it can also bring more complexity, disconnectedness, and distraction to daily work life. We have massive amounts of information at our fingertips, but the corresponding amount of collaboration must also increase.
Then, there’s our natural behavior as individuals. For most independent, self-sufficient people, collaboration isn’t so natural. That may work well for a solo performer, but leadership is all about getting work done through others. So, knowing your personal DNA behavior style as well as the people on your team can be invaluable in making collaboration successful.
“Considering the times, collaboration is a critical aspect of leadership and potentially a key differentiator in those successful teams and organizations that get results.” [Tweet This]
Now that we have an awareness of the collaboration challenge, let’s look at four practical guidelines for improving our leadership in this area –
- Take Time to Think—Think Before You Act. Some of the worst mistakes I’ve made came from jumping to action, giving direction, and assigning tasks before considering the realities of the current situation. My first responsibility is to get as much clarity as possible on the goal and how to get there. Second, it’s to consider the resources and options available—mainly the people on the team and their talents, passions, and workload. If you’re like me and move too quickly to action, make it a habit to stop and think first.
- Delegate and Get Commitment. As we’ve already discussed in a previous blog, clarity is essential to successful execution and accountability. You know this is true, especially if you’ve had the frustration of working on a project and then learning that what you thought was the goal wasn’t what your boss wanted at all. When making assignments, you own the responsibility to make sure the other person understands what is expected. Describe the goals and discuss them until you are sure the person or team understands what you are thinking. Then discuss the timing and reporting so you have agreement on the expectations of the project. Taking time to get this alignment up front brings more effective execution.
- Dialogue—Don’t Micromanage. As the leader, I like to know how things are going. I think of it as an ongoing dialogue, and it varies depending on the experience and capability of the person involved and the priority of the project. So a part of the dialogue is to keep me informed and feeling comfortable that things are on track. This is the essence of management. But just as important is my responsibility to support the person assigned to the tasks/project. This means giving feedback, which could include encouragement, coaching, mentoring, correction, training, or just listening. This is the essence of leadership. Throughout these interactions, we must be careful not to micromanage.
- Learn to Engage Rather Than Dominate or Withdraw. We must manage our fears, and we all have them. Some of us have a natural tendency to dominate and control, while others tend to withdraw. Neither of these is effective for very long. When I feel fear coming on, I have to coach myself to believe, to adopt a positive attitude so that I can trust and empower others. In reality, good leaders have to consciously walk the line—balancing the needs of the person for freedom of action and your need to keep things on track.
5. Develop and Leadership Balance. One important point to recognize is that these four guidelines also develop a better leadership balance between getting results and building relationships! I’ve said many times in the past that I was grateful for having senior leaders in the Vietnam POW camps lead with these attributes in such a challenging and difficult experience.
Making the Decision to Collaborate
“The truth is that most people want to be successful and will work hard to get there. Good leaders recognize this and collaborate with them, knowing if their people succeed they will as well.” [Tweet This]
We all can grow more effective in our collaboration, and this type of leadership is becoming more critical every day. If you have growing leaders on your team such as Millennials, research shows that they work best in a collaborative environment. I think everyone does, but they walk in the door expecting it. And in case you have not noticed, they make up the majority of those walking in the door.
So what have you learned about collaboration? What works for you? Please share your experiences. LE
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