Why Leaders Can’t Ignore Collaboration

Posted on: July 21, 2020, by :
Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash.

Collaboration is critical to any successful, high functioning organization. Yet, amazingly, some leaders underestimate its value. Others, not only understand it, they use it to accomplish strategic goals. The collaboration between NASA and Lego® is a good example. Lego® wanted to help children learn about the aerospace sector so they partnered with NASA and signed the Space Act Agreement. This established a partnership between the two organizations that was designed to jointly promote technology, engineering, and mathematics among science students. They understood the power of collaboration.

Organizations Need Collaboration

We need engaged employees and improved retention, this in part, depends upon employees being encouraged to work together to solve problems and add value. And it’s up to us to ask ourselves, “Does what we’re doing as an organization promote collaboration?”

Some organizations have taken the steps to create environments where collaboration can flourish. But creating the right circumstances is only a first step. Collaboration involves individuals working toward shared goals and using their knowledge, skills, experiences, and creative abilities to contribute.

Collaboration Begins with the Leader

Through my work I became acquainted with a leader who didn’t believe in collaboration. While they understood they needed the cooperation of others to accomplish their goals, they were more comfortable using command and control rather than partnering to collaborate.

Internally, collaboration involves listening and giving and receiving feedback as well as giving credit for ideas. Your first step in developing a collaborative environment involves owning responsibility for it. Then, you need to model the way. For example, establish a working group or other team and give them ownership and parameters for solving a problem in support of a strategic goal. 

Every Leader Can Learn to Foster Collaboration

One possible reason that leaders fail to capture the value from promoting collaboration throughout the organization is that they haven’t experienced true collaboration themselves. This leaves them unprepared to model the way for others. It’s uncomfortable undertaking highly visible work that exposes vulnerabilities, but this can be particularly meaningful for leaders. When leaders share experiences that expose vulnerabilities, it builds trust and teamwork.

Your next step in fostering collaboration involves checking on the team you’ve empowered to collaborate. Find out what’s working, what isn’t, and why. Recognize their efforts, even if they experience failures along the way. Show appreciation and share of the collaboration more broadly throughout the organization encouraging team members to participate in sharing as well.

I’ve worked with executives who were promoted into their positions only to find themselves feeling pressure to step up their performance. After they were in their new position, they felt a bit overwhelmed. Some felt as though they were unqualified—as if they didn’t deserve the promotion in the first place. While others were unaware that they lacked the ability to work collaboratively. The good news is you can learn to work more collaboratively and use this ability to build capable teams to move your organization forward.

This begins when you recognize that collaboration within your organization is your responsibility and then doing the work to make collaboration part of the culture.

We know leaders cannot ignore collaboration. Productivity, morale, and retention depend upon it. Your competitors most likely understand this, and they too, are working to improve collaboration in their organizations. Your organization’s future depends upon it, you want attract top talent and top talent is attracted to collaborative work environments.

What does the future hold for your organization? And what are you going to do to prepare your organization for the future?