Collaboration Improves Business Outcomes
In the United States, where we recently came out of a challenging election season, a concern for many leaders in the last few months has been creating workplaces where all employees are focused on the mission of the organization and not distracted by the political views of their colleagues. It seems that with this election, we are seeing a decrease in civility, openness and appreciation for alternate points of view. While this problem is accelerated by the recent election in the U.S., we are seeing similar concerns globally as we experience factions pushing toward globalism while others move toward localism.
For example: Bill is leading a group of technology professionals. They come from diverse backgrounds, and many are new to the organization. They are focused on IT security, a field that is evolving quickly. This group is continually faced with challenges they have not seen, and they are one of the top organizations among their peers. They are encouraged to attend conferences, read, talk to people in different industries and talk to thought leaders. Their only limitations in their interactions are time and money—the same limitations we all face. In addition to being encouraged to solicit information continually, they are explicit about their culture. They have discussed how they will work together and define the elements that support a highly effective culture. These agreements are foundational to their ability to think and behave collaboratively as their primary approach to problem-solving.
In this context, creating a culture and overt collaboration agreements is foundational to maximizing the organization’s ability to deliver results. I realize many people are considered “knowledge workers,” which means that we bring our whole self to work, and yet authentically sharing how much we disapprove of a political point of view and the people who hold it is not acceptable. I am a fan of authenticity with limits. I can be authentic and keep my political views to myself, just like I keep other elements of my private life private. “Authentic” does not mean no filters!
So, how do we create a culture that is innately collaborative? In a chapter of “Leadership 2050: Critical Challenges, Key Contexts and Emerging Trends,” Susan Cannon, Mike Morrow-Fox and I define the top seven mindsets and behaviors we believe are required to thrive now and create the positive future we all want to experience. We define innately collaborative as welcoming collaboration in a quest for novel solutions that serve the highest outcome for all involved.
Here are three key behaviors for creating a collaborative culture:
- Seeks input from multiple perspectives/values diverse points of view: Do you create an environment where people with different points of view are welcome and encouraged? Do you have an approach to synthesizing those often-competing points of view and the value they hold into a robust set of solutions?
- Creates solutions to complex problems by creating new approaches that did not exist, pulling together constituents in novel ways, and creating broader and more creative alliances: Do you search for existing best practices to address your complex challenges, or do you solicit input from your smartest cross-functional thinkers and ask them to develop solutions that don’t exist yet?
- Understands that in a time of extreme change, input from multiple stakeholders with diverse points of view are required. Do you seek out people, inside and outside of your organization, who see the world differently, or do you say, “We are looking for people who have solved this exact problem before?”
Organizations generally don’t create a collaborative culture by accident. It takes a deliberate approach to identifying how the culture is operating now and identifying barriers to collaboration:
- Assess the culture to quantify the current level of function (current state).
- Identify and agree on how the culture needs to function (goal state) to meet the organization’s mission.
- Identify gaps between the current state and the goal state.
- Determine what agreements and actions need to happen to move to the goal state.
Creating a collaborative environment takes a conscious effort, and it impacts the organization’s success. This effort has a concrete and measurable impact. Your employee involvement and productivity increases, and they deliver superior results.
Maureen Metcalf, CEO and founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, consultant, author, speaker and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. She hosts Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations, which features world renowned expert guests, on the world’s leading live internet talk radio network, Voice America, and is the author of the “Innovative Leadership Fieldbook” series.