Collaboration: The Role of the Leader

bridgeWhen embarking upon an initiative to increase – and reap the benefits of – collaboration there are several steps for leaders to take at the onset:

* Determine why collaboration is desired

* Define what collaboration will look like in the organization

* Review the current state of the organizational culture to determine readiness

* Ensure people are ready, willing and able to collaborate

There are also additional areas leaders should evaluate when making a commitment to increasing or improving collaboration in an organization.

Value vs. Cost

When identifying the potential opportunities that exist leaders should make a commitment to undertake certain initiatives only when the value will exceed the cost.

Value may be derived, for example, when better innovation arises through collaboration. This can take the form of cross-unit product development or new business development for the entire enterprise. Value can lead to increasing sales (i.e. defining additional cross-selling opportunities or enhancing customer service offerings) or by improving operations that lead to costs savings. Think about, as an example, initiatives that lead to the transfer or sharing of best practices or better decision making.

Leaders must also assess the potential cost and ask questions such as “will we be foregoing other projects or opportunities because of this new effort?” or “will we, perhaps, experience budget overruns, poor quality or lost sales?”

Personal Behavior

Leaders must take stock of their own readiness and ensure not just their personal ability but also their individual willingness to collaborate.  After reviewing and removing the organizational barriers that exist leaders should also focus on:

  • Encouraging relationships that cross organizational boundaries and hierarchies.
  • Implementing internal strategies that celebrate, recognize, and reward a relationship oriented culture.
  • Training employees in the skills related to collaborative behavior such as conflict resolution skills, project management skills and the behaviors associated with recognizing and appreciating others.
  • Modeling collaborative behavior by allowing different voices to be heard, soliciting input from multiple people, and making it clear that disagreement is not the same as conflict.
  • Communicating to others in the organization that the goal of collaboration is not collaboration but is, rather, better results.

Morten T. Hansen, management professor at UC-Berkley, has defined disciplined collaboration as “the leadership practice of properly assessing when to collaborate (and when not to) and instilling in people both the willingness and the ability to collaborate when required.”

By focusing on the goal – better results! – and collaborating only when appropriate leaders can successfully improve organizational performance.

Visit the blog tomorrow when we’ll wrap up this week long series by discussing Collaboration: Working Smarter, Not Harder. View yesterday’s post

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