(appeared in the Houston Business Journal, November 11, 2013 as “8 Steps to Promoting Collaboration in Your Company)
There’s a dramatic difference in what can be accomplished when people operate as individuals versus operating with a commitment to the success of the whole. While fractured leadership produces distraction, confusion and even cynicism in a business, collaborative leadership produces clarity, confidence and the possibility of unprecedented performance.
Collaborative leadership is more difficult than it sounds, so if your company’s executive leadership can do it well, it can be the secret weapon for staying ahead of the competition.
Let’s be clear. Not every discussion or decision ought to be the effect of pure democracy. Nor does “collaborative” in this sense mean to imply full agreement or even lengthy conversations and discussions. But using collaborative leadership can be helpful in scenarios like making strategic decisions, reinventing the firm’s organization, going through market uncertainty and pushing through plateaus.
Foster collaborative leadership by taking the following measures:
1. Listen. Each member of the team who wishes to be heard should be heard. More importantly, they should have the experience of being heard. Teammates must be willing to put their own point of view aside and listen for the validity of what another is offering.
2. Commit to each other's success. Each member of the team impacts the success of each member and impacts success of the team as a team. Despite personal opinions, preferences, and likes or dislikes, each should be willing to embrace that the team is the group that will accomplish the end goal.
3. Say it out loud. Discuss every significant worry, concern and potential source of conflict and tension, rather than leave it festering. There are no private conversations when it comes to the business of your business. More often than not, the private conversations are a more powerful determinant of behavior, action and results than the public conversations.
4. Hold each other accountable. Everyone is empowered to hold each other accountable for the desired actions and results.
5. Welcome dissent and diversity. Welcome and invite disparate and dissenting views. Unilateral thinking rarely produces the quality of outcome made possible when debate (even if heated) is encouraged and differing viewpoints are tested for validity and contribution.
6. Wear two hats. Understand that every member of the team wears two hats — one regarding their area of accountability, the other for the success of the team or organization as a whole. Understanding which hat one is wearing for each conversation or engagement is important.
7. Be transparent. Collaborative leadership requires clarity and relative simplicity. Complicated agendas inhibit the right conversations often obfuscate the real issues to address and discuss.
8. Tolerate the dialogue. Making the right decision requires teammates to appreciate and understand the tolerance of dialogue. Rushing to action eliminates the possibility of seeing something that could greatly impact performance.
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