According to Wikipedia, “collaboration is the process of two or more people or organizations working together to complete a task or achieve a goal. Collaboration is similar to cooperation. Most collaboration requires leadership, although the form of leadership can be social within a decentralized and egalitarian group.”
We are focused on this critical skill so that we can share a bit more about who we are in Inspired Leadership, and also to give some insights into how we work together in a very decentralized and egalitarian group. With the pace of change increasing and the realization that no one can possibly know everything, the workplace has shifted from a “me” to a “we” environment. Even in smaller, flatter & highly distributed organizations, like Inspired Leadership**, the reality is that going it alone is lonely and slower. The African Proverb rightly says:
“If you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.”
But what are the underlying concepts supporting collaboration in a geographically dispersed, influence & relationship-based workspace?
**[Inspired Leadership has Certified Channel Partners & Facilitators across South Africa, the UK, USA, Canada, India, and Australia.]
Open and constructive communication
Whenever I am asked about what the core leadership skills are, I am immediately drawn to communication. Speaking concisely and clearly & listening actively is at the heart of 99% of leadership. I have noticed that we have a tendency to over-explain and verbally circle around several times before we land the idea or the request. This confuses people & makes it very difficult for others to know what is being expected of them, making collaboration nearly impossible.
As an example, I recently emailed my team in what I thought was clear communication. I heard “crickets” back from them, so I probed to see if the message had actually been delivered! Only to get a brave soul saying: What are you expecting from us? Although I thought I had been abundantly clear, it was obvious that my request to them was hidden within layers of other content & thus missed.
This was a great lesson for me, to be extra obvious with what needs to be done or where the input is required. Ask for what you need, make it specific and clear. In our virtual world, with a heavy reliance on emails and texts, be clear, be specific, and be crisp! We can’t expect collaboration when the opportunities are disguised in vague hints & veiled expectations.
If you ask for input and open the space for collaboration, be sure you have your Growth Mindset installed.
A quick way to bring collaboration to a sudden stop is to defend your way of doing things or your ideas. If you want to get better, if you want input from others it is imperative to be open to learning and growing. That is not to say that others are always rights and you are wrong; rather it is about exploring others’ input and having a willingness to admit that you don’t know it all. Adopting a growth mindset enables you to leverage the skills, knowledge, or experience of others. I recently read a great quote, although don’t know where it was from: Ego is the death of collaboration. Check your ego at the door, because there is no room for “I know it all, I am the boss” in a collaborative workplace.
Way back in April when Inspired Leadership started the #VirtualConnects in response to the sudden global lockdown, we moved incredibly quickly to launch our LinkedIn Company Page mobilize a full agenda for April & May, a digital sign-up process & over 10 international facilitators stepping up to lead conversations. We had an idea and we moved with it. I reached out to a dear colleague and friend, Peter Mostachetti, to get stuck in with a quick on-line events booking platform and before we knew it, we had a process, a platform & an approach that was created through dialogue, idea-sharing & not one person thinking they knew everything. The Inspired Leadership global community has continued to collaborate on the #virtualconnects & share ideas, content, time and resources for the benefit of all. (Check out other blogs & video’s authored by partners)
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
We all are desperate for the certainty that decisions today will lay the foundations for the next 24+ months. The reality is that decisions taken today might need to be tweaked or even changed completely tomorrow or next month in light of new developments. This is desperately uncomfortable for most of us who grew up in a world where policies were policies & an agreement from 2 years ago could be brought up to defend your position today. I know, as a business leader operating in a world where opportunity, challenge, benefits, and obstacles are bundled up right next to each other every day, that it is nearly impossible to predict what 2021 will look like and how our business will evolve and respond.
I am desperate to put down plans & communicate “this is the way it shall be”, but it just isn’t possible. As a result, I need to rely on open & constructive relationships, the shared vision, and purpose of our organization and the trust that the global team at Inspired Leadership, made up of Certified Partners & Facilitators as well as associates have put in me & in each other. We are all uncomfortable, we are all operating in a place where there is enough information for today and tomorrow, but no one can see into the future. It is for times like this, that collaboration, (where the broader team participates in creating that shared future), is critical.
Collaboration takes communication intelligence
A final thought on collaboration springs from our focus last week on decision making. When a team is invited to collaborate in decision making or problem-solving, it is wise to use communication intelligence to leverage diversity:
- Have a point of view & express it
- Substantiate what is behind that point of view
- Ask for critical input from others, which will help you uncover blind spots or weaknesses in your idea
- Actively solicit others for their ideas, points of view & reasons why
We are naive if we believe we know it all. The input from others stretches us to think around corners. As leaders, it is our job to create a space for others to contribute to the mission of our organization & uncover the hidden gems that are unleashed when people feel valued and appreciated for who they are & for their contribution.
Check out #OurStories to meet the people of Inspired Leadership.
About the Author:
Angela de Longchamps is the Founder and CEO of Inspired Leadership. She is dedicated to creating a community of like-minded professionals who leverage the unique Inspired Leadership approach, which can impact people to become better leaders and better people. Since starting Inspired Leadership, she has built a geographically dispersed team of Certified Partners and Facilitators who take the Inspired Leadership blended learning journeys to clients. As the team evolves, & new challenges are met she has cemented her commitment to collaboration to achieve the organization’s purpose.
Angela is a professional speaker, consultant & facilitator.