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Collaboration is a politically correct word that gets thrown around in meetings and company reports, but is rarely contemplated deeply. It’s as if we assume that everyone knows what collaboration is and how it should be done. But why should that be?
At school and at work, we’ve been taught only to compete. That’s a big gap. Unsurprisingly, few businesses and teams genuinely collaborate well.
When we do take the time to go deeper, I’ve found that many leaders are surprised that the first part of collaboration is ‘inspiration’. Under time and resource pressure we too often rush to the detail of a collaborative task or project. We set out the logical and practical steps, but forget to make the emotional case.
I remember when I studied for my degree in change management that most of the theory went something like, “just get the people engaged,” and then implement tool X, structure Y or programme Z. I’ve always found that “getting the people engaged” is 90% of the game. Once you’ve got to that point, pretty much anything is possible.
So inspiration is the turbo charger for your people and business. The trouble is that inspiration expires. As leaders, we need to both create and sustain the inspiration of our people (and ourselves) over the long haul.
That’s why leaders at the highest level spend the majority of their time working to inspire others. It’s a multiplier effect. We can’t do everything ourselves, so we must inspire others to be their best, who, in turn, inspire those around them. Like firelighters in a barbecue, our job is to ignite the fire in those around us.
HOW inspiration FITS INTO OUR LEADERSHIP MODEL
Inspiration refers to the energy, enthusiasm and desire to act, as a result of feeling mentally and emotionally stimulated.
Vision is the ability of our mind to clearly ‘see’ a specific and desired outcome at some point in the future. The vision is often created in advance of having the knowledge, people or resources to bring it about, but it serves as an impetus. It provides a sense of want and becomes a dream or target to pursue. It’s linked to our ability to imagine and mentally create something that does not yet exist.
In a leadership context, vision plays a pivotal role. Visionary leaders are generally optimistic and able to communicate what they see in a way that attracts others.
In a world full of uncertainty, a strong vision is critical in persuading others to make an emotional investment in bringing it about. It excites us and gives us the courage to take a step into the unknown. This is especially important when the project is new or high risk.
A great way in to vision-setting is for the leader to reflect not on ‘what is’, but ‘what could be?’ This create new connections in the brain and triggers novel thoughts in relation to future potential
Passion is the strong emotion that moves people to do their best – to go ‘all-in’. It’s the emotional energy that drives us to invent, discover, persist and rebound when we face adversity.
Researchers believe that passion is linked to the neurotransmitter, dopamine. This is the chemical released in the brain when we anticipate receiving some kind of reward from what we are about to do. It’s also referred to as the ‘chemical of desire’ and is associated with both attention and motivation. Low levels of dopamine are typically associated with depression, lack of drive and a tendency to acquire addictions.
Deloitte expert, John Hagel cites a clear linkage between passion and business performance in leaders.
People pursuing their passion are deeply committed to the business domain that has engaged them.
He feels that leaders who can leverage their passion are able to not only reach their full potential at a point in time, but also to continually expand it. By passionately challenging themselves and their teams, they are continuously evolving and probing. This is exactly what we need in fast-changing business environment, where “what if?” is the question we must be asking constantly.
If we are to tie our colours to a leader’s vision we must take on risk and make ourselves vulnerable. Fundamental to this, we must trust.
More than any other thing, trust defines human relationships. When a sense of confidence grows from one person to another, relationships flourish and outcomes, big and small are created. Trust is correlated to the hormone, oxytocin. This promotes human bonding and assists in breaking down social barriers, in turn increasing a sense of trust, self-esteem and optimism.
In turn, old hierarchical ‘power’ sources are devalued. Collaboration is built on trust. Leaders must become masters of engendering trusting relationships in their teams. The continuous push (and often historical default) for some leaders to spend most of their time on action-related tasks detracts from their ability to build this rapport. Whilst it has always been a good thing to do, it’s now a leadership imperative.
Leaders who can’t create trust, cannot build the high performing collaborative teams that are essential to success today. Sooner or later, they will fail. That’s a shame because building trust is a wonderful exploration of human connection that can only enrich us.
I believe that we will see a more diverse range of leaders and leadership styles emerge as it becomes increasingly clear that genuine collaboration is the only way to go. And that’s a good thing!
Mark Hodgson comes from an international corporate leadership background. He is one of our i4 Partners and runs his own leadership practise. A natural disruptor, he helps executives and consultants to position themselves as leading influencers. He also volunteers as a Telephone Crisis Support worker for Lifeline.
Mark is an Executive Coach, keynote Speaker and the Author. His first book is: ‘Time to Shine: Adapting who you are and what you know to succeed in the ideas economy’.