Stop, Collaborate and Listen

Collaboration. Easier said than done. The ability to collaborate is being touted as an essential skill in today’s business environment. But there is no universally understood definition of what constitutes collaboration and, as such, myths have been created about what it means to be collaborative -- It’s a “female” trait. If you collaborate you are weakening your position. Real leaders command and control.

When in reality, collaboration is all about efficiency and getting things done. More effective problem solving happens when you combine resources in talent, experience, finances and infrastructure.

I learned early in my career that the odds of building a winning team and company are really slim if you can’t work effectively with multiple stakeholders or don’t emphasize collaboration as a critical aspect of leadership.

Although it requires introspection to find your personal definition of collaboration, it is necessary for your business that you do it. Better yet, that you do it right. Which is why it’s essential to have a collaboration strategy.

Having a solid collaboration strategy in place benefits your business in several ways. It also provides a safe feedback environment where employees can learn from each other, which often turns into a sense of trust.

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Everybody can win

I had a great boss who drilled into my head the idea that you should always look for a scenario where everyone can win. To be clear, that doesn’t mean diluting the end result or compromising your beliefs. It means understanding the motivation behind each person’s needs. If you listen carefully and assume no negative intent, you can usually find a solution – a way for everyone to get part of their needs met. In a fast growth industry, at a senior level, the ability to work effectively with your peers is one of the most critical skills an executive can have.

It takes the whole team

Sure it would be nice to always have the best ideas, but face it — you may not actually be Steve Jobs. Encourage everyone to contribute and seek out the opinions of the introverts on the team. Often they have the most original ideas but may struggle with communicating them in a group forum. True collaboration involves every person that has a part in the project. Everyone’s ideas should be heard and once the ideas start flowing,  the really good stuff starts happening. You’ll notice people beginning to build off of other’s ideas and voila, you’ve got a winning plan, and the best part — everyone is on board because everyone was included, whether their idea was chosen or not.

Don’t overdo it

Like everything else in life, moderation is key. While it’s important to encourage a collaborative environment, it’s equally important to ensure productivity isn’t hindered. Key findings in a study done by Gensler observed that workplaces designed to enable collaboration without sacrificing employees’ ability to focus are more successful. For example, look at open seating. It’s convenient for teams to connect when there aren’t walls in the way but that doesn’t mean it really fosters collaboration. Yes, Open seating does have its downfalls. Does it create a place that invites too much collaboration or create an unproductive environment for your employees? Yes and no. But, there are easy ways around this. It’s as simple as having quiet areas setup throughout the office space where employees can focus. Or if your office allows for it, set up a few small rooms where employees are able to block off times when they need some space.

Do you have any collaboration strategies that you use? If so, share them below!