Collaboration is the key to success

Are you inspiring or just instructing? 

By Ray Lamb, Leadership Coach at The Learning Corporation

In a complex, volatile, and uncertain world, a ‘top-down’ leadership style cannot sustain growth, innovation and creativity. Leaders who collaborate will survive and thrive. Unlocking and using the ideas of teams, partners, suppliers and individuals is the way forward.

“As our businesses become more complex, it’s up to all of us to work harder at humanizing our approach in everything we do. On top of this, as businesses become more social, collaboration is becoming the most critical business competitive advantage.”  Bryan Kramer

The 2014 Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor report describes open and transparent communication as the number one characteristic of an effective leader, yet only 22% of people around the globe believe leaders are effective.

We have a whole new generation of fresh thinking individuals coming into the workplace who, if captured and inspired, will be the key to leading the world back into prosperity and solve the seemingly unsolvable problems of today. This generation are familiar with collaborative and informal environments – they can wear what they like to school and University and have good relationships with teachers, where they are on first name terms and openly discuss feedback on their work. They use two-way communication constantly – via social and traditional media – and usually several methods at once; democracy and respect in all areas of their lives is expected. Yet often, when they enter the workplace, they meet a traditional ‘command and control’ leadership type where communication is one-way, slow, sapping of energy and inappropriate for the needs of modern business.

But the success stories of today take a different leadership approach. Forward-thinking business leaders are capturing and inspiring this new generation and thriving in a challenging and ever-changing business landscape by using collaborative leadership techniques.

So what is collaborative leadership? Hank Rubin, Founder of the Institute for Collaborative Leadership states, “A collaboration is a purposeful relationship in which all parties strategically choose to cooperate in order to accomplish a shared outcome.”

“Working collaboratively helps businesses to unearth new solutions in a dynamic and more productive way,” says Louise Punter, Chief Executive of Surrey Chambers of Commerce. “Businesses need to keep up with the evolving workplace landscape in order to thrive. By taking a collaborative approach, leaders can create a mutually beneficial working environment and reach innovative solutions to drive their businesses forward, benefiting all involved.”

So what might we gain by encouraging collaboration?

Taps into a natural human process

Collaboration is natural to us as humans – we’re social beings so working together is fulfilling. It works and people like it!

“Humans are highly social beings. We like to be surrounded by friends and share our personal experiences with others. The recent appearance of various social networking tools, and their adoption at a virtually explosive rate, nicely illustrate the strong and fundamental human desire for social belonging and interpersonal exchange.” Pascal Vrticka

Builds trust

Collaboration builds trust and increases involvement in the implementation of solutions, so we get better results. People are accountable not only for their own actions but also for their contribution to their teams.

Helps discover and create better solutions

Collaborative working enables people to combine their ideas and identify better solutions. People bounce ideas off each other and can inspire others whilst working together.

“In businesses, this type of collaboration focuses on developing creative solutions or ideas that improve an existing process or product. Through ongoing collaboration, socialization, and vetting, the idea develops into a viable solution to address a new market opportunity, re-engineer a core process, solve a problem, or create business value.” Cisco Study

Gets things done faster

A simple point but extremely valid – we all know that many hands make light work! Working together with effective delegation means that you reach your targets quicker, making you more efficient as an organisation and saving you money as well.

Aligns your organisation’s vision / purpose with what needs to be done

By creating an environment where discussion across the entire organisation is the norm, leaders are able to better align the organisation’s vision, mission and values.

Enhances motivation

Collaborative working enhances motivation to find common ground and common cause, as people breakdown barriers and tackle new issues together. In return, the group gets more effective and wide-reaching solutions.

Generates high performance

In the great words of Nichole Martini (from Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy group), “when there is a truly functioning team, the aspirations of an organisation become a reality. The mission outlasts the leader. This is the aspiration all of us should have for our organisations and our work.”

Helps to better understand the needs of your customers and partners

Collaboration with customers, suppliers, and partners helps you to get closer to their needs, so you understand them better. With a high-performing team, you can then create and provide more of what it is that they need and want to succeed

Hopefully these points have made you think about how you can work towards a more collaborative leadership approach. By maximising your team’s skills and abilities effectively, through a collaborative approach, you’ll soon notice that you aren’t feeling the stress of having to have all the answers yourself any more.