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Strategy is not a solo sport! Regardless of how creative, smart and savvy you may be, in this day and age, you can not transform a team, a business unit, an organisation without the brainpower and commitment of others! Collaboration is a critical leadership competency for the 21st century.
Created by Silvia Damiano the that consists of 4 key competencies with 16 underpinning pillars. The model is rather different from other leadership competency approaches because informed by contemporary neuroscience, it takes account of the brain and body processes that support effective leadership practices critical for the 21st Century.
In this article we will talk about Collaboration which refers to:
The attainment of a common goal through the effort of a combined body of people.
We at Mantle would argue that Collaboration is not simply a ‘nice to have’ organisational philosophy. It’s a critical leadership issue and an essential ingredient for organisational survival and success. If you consider any pressing challenge that leaders and organisations face today, the chances are that it cuts across vertical, horizontal, stakeholder, demographic and geographic boundaries.
Collective problems, by definition, need collaborative solutions supported by collaborative leaders. And yet the evidence shows that we are struggling to foster productive collaboration in our workplaces with resulting enormous collateral and
Today’s workplace is being transformed by social, political and technological drivers meaning that information and communications can flow from any and all directions. Leaders need to rely more than ever on the intelligence and resourcefulness of their staff. They need to know how to work in all directions and with all people—regardless of occupation, level, location, ancestry, nationality or religion.
According to Gensler’s 2013 US Workplace Survey (WPS), the most effective, productive workplaces are those that balance focus and collaboration, providing employees with space to work intensely on individual tasks and to gather with colleagues to brainstorm, complete group work or just enjoy a little social interaction.
Evan Rosen, the author of The Culture of Collaboration, defines collaboration as:
Working together to create value while sharing virtual or physical space.
According to him, removing command and-control structures allows collaboration to flourish. Google has a reputation for data-based decision-making and so it should be no surprise that the organisation would measure what makes an effective Google manager. What is interesting is that, although technical skills do rate in the top eight behaviours or competencies, five of the top six relate to the relationship between the manager and their team—being a good coach, empowering the team, helping with team member development, being a good communicator and expressing an interest in employee’s success and wellbeing.
It could be that today’s work challenges may be too complex and volatile for individual leaders to get traction. Leadership effectiveness in the future may be determined more by the quality of leadership collaboration.
A recent study of senior executives of international firms published by Korn-Ferry, the world’s largest executive search firm, and The Economist resoundingly confirms the theory that tomorrow’s organisations will be managed by teams of leaders. Asked who will have the most influence on their global organisations in the next ten years, 61 percent responded ‘teams of leaders’; 14 percent said ‘one leader.’
When collaboration is working well we:
When collaboration is not working well we:
We have to recognise a new paradigm—not great leaders alone, but great leaders who exist in a fertile relationship with a great group. In these creative alliances, the leader and the team are able to achieve something together that neither could achieve alone.
Collaboration and high performing teams go together—where the team members are focused on achieving great team outcomes and also supporting the individual development of team members.
Another part of the problem, we believe, is that we often don’t have a clear definition and context for collaboration. Often organisations mistake interactions such as coordination (“I’m handing this over to you”) or cooperation (“I’m helping you out”) and communication (“I’m keeping you up to date”) with true collaboration.
Productive collaboration is not about endless meetings, but opportunities for people to come together to work on something that is value building. We think it is important that we differentiate collaboration from other interactions that people have with colleagues in a work setting so we can set about fostering the conditions that lead to greater collaboration. Collaboration is about deploying the best collective efforts of others in a focused manner and to our mind is at the heart of strategy, culture and change flexibility.
Too often timely decision making (good or bad) trumps space for collaboration. The "decisive successful leader" thinks deeply and broadly and provides a convincing case that sells the idea to the key stakeholders. It is too often a win:lose game and most of us would probably prefer not to be challenged on the outcome of our thinking and have to go back to the drawing board.
Thankfully there are signs of change. Newer iterations of TQM and Kaizan approaches such as e.g. Agile and Lean methodologies are taking more collaborative and design thinking approaches that seek to harness the best collective thinking in and outside of the room.
It is a very different leader mindset to start a team meeting with a well-formed question instead of an answer, and then artfully facilitate so that the best collective thinking surfaces from the group.
James Surowiecki’s "The Wisdom of Crowds" expounds on the power of this thinking that leads to a higher form of solution than any of us could have reached by ourselves. We are used to coming to a meeting with a viewpoint, and then debating it if necessary to prove that we are the smartest person in the room. If our idea loses, we lose face and our survival brain is triggered.
We have to learn to collaborate, to hash out ideas with our colleagues keeping the higher purpose in mind. According to Silvia Damiano of the About my Brain Institute, we can develop collaboration in leaders through strengthening four key areas: inspiration, communication, generosity and courage.
Many (groups of) individuals have a vague notion of the vision that they are working towards; however, they don’t have an understanding of the collective work that they have to do together that not one of them could do on their own. A collective visualisation of the future guides direction and provides the scaffolding on which to have open conversations that can lead to new thinking.
This exploration of new ideas without being tied into right or wrong—in an environment that encourages, laughter, freedom and creativity—enhances dopamine levels which, in turn, drives greater productivity and outcomes. Furthermore, this setting of trust triggers the release of oxytocin, which further supports inspiration. Seventy-seven percent of people surveyed by AMBi agree that inspiration is not taken seriously in most workplaces, while 97 percent think that inspiration can mobilise people into action more than a command and control approach.
There is no collaboration without artful dialogue. In the Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations, Judith and Richard Glaser differentiate positive and negative interactions (see table). When we are ‘present’ with each other, new ideas can form in the moment without the guilt of the past or anxiety of the future. We can improve our ability to be in direct experience through training and practise.
We have a tendency to love ideas that help others as long as they do not impinge on our own backyard. Society has instilled a deep sense of competitiveness in us. In many organisations it is about the survival of the fittest.
When we treat each other in a different, more generous way, we think beyond ourselves to find a win-win solution. Neuroscience is now showing us what we have long known to be true: service to others calms us, connects us and allows our brains to be at optimal fitness. One of the five ways to wellbeing of the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand is to give.
In order to collaborate well we have to overcome the easily triggered threat response of our amygdala. The challenge of the 21st century brain is to recondition our amygdala so that it only alerts us when there is a real danger to ourselves. With constant daily practise and awareness, science is showing us that brain’s can reach a higher state of calmness and alertness that allows us to be more precise with the decision of what constitutes a life or death response.
As we collaborate more effectively we would expect to see:
Regardless of how creative, smart and savvy a leader may be, he or she can’t transform an organisation, a department or a team without the brainpower and commitment of others. Success dictates that the individuals affected by change be involved in the change from the very beginning.
Many organisations are trying to share the cumulative wisdom of a workforce by investing 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 mindset and behaviour of people throughout an organisation. Successful collaboration is a critical human and leadership issue.
Authorised i4 Partner of the About my Brain Institute.
Ruth has worked across a variety of industry sectors and from front line to CEO level. She has headed up the Asia Pacific region of a global training & development organisation and specialises in applying theory into practice.
Ruth is a Director of Mantle a New Zealand based leadership development consultancy. An engaging and sought after facilitator, keynote speaker and writer Ruth is passionate about applying leading edge thinking that empowers great leaders in a practical way.