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LEADERSHIP IS A PROCESS OF SOCIAL INFLUENCE, WHICH MAXIMISES THE EFFORTS OF OTHERS TOWARDS THE ACHIEVEMENT OF A SHARED GOAL.
Saturday, May 08, 2010
Business leaders around the world are increasingly realising that "silo mentality" and knowledge hoarding behaviours are wasting the kind of collective brainpower that could save their organisation millions, or lead to the discovery of a revolutionary new process or product, or, in the current economic climate, help keep their company afloat when others are sinking!
And it's not just corporate profits that suffer when collaboration is low: the workforce loses something too. Individuals lose the opportunity to work in the kind of inclusive environment that energises teams, releases creativity and makes working together both productive and joyful.
Here are seven insights for harnessing the power of collaboration:
1. Collaboration is a leadership issue. In trying to capture and communicate the cumulative wisdom of a workforce, the public and private sectors have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in portals, software, and intranets. But collaboration is more than the technology that supports it, and even more than a business strategy aimed at optimising an organisation's experience and expertise. Collaboration is, first and foremost, a change in attitude and behaviour of people throughout an organisation. Successful collaboration is a leadership issue.
2. Collaboration is essential for organisational change. Regardless of how creative, clever and savvy a leader may be, he or she can't transform an organisation, a department or a team without the brain power and commitment of others. Whether the change involves creating new products, services, processes – or a total reinvention of how the organisation must look, operate, and position itself for the future – success dictates that the individuals impacted by change be involved in the change from the very beginning.
3. Visioning is a team sport. Today's most successful leaders guide their organisations not through command and control, but through a shared purpose and vision. These leaders adopt and communicate a vision of the future that impels people beyond the boundaries and limits of the past. But if the future vision belongs only to top management, it will never be an effective motivator for the workforce. The power of a vision comes truly into play only when the employees themselves have had some part in its creation.
4. Diversity is crucial. Experiments at the University of Michigan found that, when challenged with a difficult problem, groups composed of highly adept members performed worse than groups whose members had varying levels of skill and knowledge. The reason for this seemingly odd outcome has to do with the power of diverse thinking. Diversity causes people to consider perspectives and possibilities that would otherwise be ignored. Group members who think alike or are trained in similar disciplines with similar bases of knowledge run the risk of becoming insular in their ideas. Instead of exploring alternatives, a confirmation bias takes over and members tend to reinforce one another's predisposition.
5. Relationships are key. The outcome of any collaborative effort is dependent upon well-developed personal relationships among participants. Not allowing time for this can be a costly mistake. For example, all too often, in the rush to get started on a project, team leaders put people together and tell them to "get to work." This approach proves less than productive, as the group hasn't had time to get to know one another, to discover each other's strengths and weaknesses, to build trust, nor to develop a common understanding and vision for the project.
6. Trust is the glue. Trust is the belief or confidence that one party has in the reliability, integrity and honesty of another party. It is the expectation that the faith one places in someone else will be honoured. In many businesses today, there is a crisis of trust: suspicious and cynical employees are disinclined to collaborate – sharing knowledge is still perceived as weakening a personal "power base." And, despite lots of lip service to the contrary, too many corporate leaders still don't trust employees with the kind of open communication that is the foundation of informed collaboration.
7. Body language matters. Leaders often make "body language blunders". For example, have you ever been in an important meeting, and heard the presenter telling the group how much he welcomed any input the group could provide? But at the same time he was using both his hands to nonverbally push the entire group away!
Today's corporation exists in an increasingly complex and ever-shifting ocean of change. As a result, leaders need to rely more than ever on the intelligence and resourcefulness of their staff. Collaboration is not a "nice to have" organisational philosophy. It is an essential ingredient for organisational survival and success.