Struggling to Collaborate

Struggling to Collaborate?

Leaders are often personalities that thrive in the spotlight, who are unabashedly individual and who may struggle with ‘teamwork’. After all, their personal drive and competitive nature are often what sets them apart from the crowd and got them to where they are today.

But what happens when those same characteristics are what drive a wedge between being an effective leader and one that alienates those who are being led?

According to the Harvard Business Review, many leaders struggle to collaborate when it means giving up that same individualism and sense of personal achievement.

The top reasons cited for leaders failing to successfully collaborate with peers in the workplace include silos, no collaborative vision by the leaders themselves, and not wanting to give up control.

If you see yourself falling into this category, you need to understand what the reasons are for your own apprehension. Because collaboration in today’s workplace is critical for solving complex problems and responding to issues more rapidly. Failing to utilise collaboration in your business can put your organisation on the back foot and behind the competition.

And how does successful collaboration happen?

It doesn’t happen by pushing people together. The workplace culture is responsible for creating conditions where collaboration happens naturally and easily. It requires connectivity and communication for effective collaboration.

What leadership behaviours encourage collaboration?

1. Get rid of the silos

Given that silos were considered the number one obstacle to collaboration, according to the Harvard Business Review,

When teams or departments become compartmentalised and fail to share information within your establishment it leads to power struggles, a lack of cooperation, and reduced productivity, all of which can be avoided.

Leaders who promote cross-departmental sharing, reward cooperation and encourage success as a whole business can break down those barriers.

When silos can be demolished it can and will improve profitability, encourage innovation, and greatly increase customer and client satisfaction.

2. Trust is the glue

Teams working in a group format are not necessarily collaborative by default. It only works if said employees are able to have confidence in and trust in others, able to believe that the others will have the same integrity and reliability as themselves.

Leaders who are trusted are open and honest and use transparent communication. They don’t sugarcoat the negatives or withhold information on a need-to-know basis.

These leaders don’t point fingers and instead use less-than-desirable outcomes to act as learnings. Building a strong culture in the workplace using team-building events and offsite retreats also fosters stronger interpersonal relationships.

3. Maximising the potential of diversity

Problem-solving can often have a greater potential for a breakthrough the more diverse the group is working on the problem. Having a diverse array of perspectives can be the biggest catalyst to solving a problem instead of having a homogenous group who all work and think alike.

4. Improving ‘soft skills’

One of the greatest things any leader can do or encourage is active listening and improving conversational skills.

When employees and leaders alike can add empathy along with strong conversational skills it becomes a genuinely advantageous proposition at every level and aspect of the business.

5. ‘Warm’ body language

Even though leaders need to project power and status, it doesn’t merit being the only type of body language on display. Being open and caring is the most conducive to creating a collaborative workforce.

Inclusive body languages like eye contact, open postures, and authentic smiles all exude warmer body language.

Giving others your full attention, mirroring, and facing people directly all send signals of inclusivity and show that you have a genuine interest in proceedings.

6. Sense of safety

Employees are more likely to collaborate when they don’t feel threatened or fearful and when they don’t feel distrustful or anxious.

When an employee is in those states, they tend to hang on to knowledge and opinions for dear life and avoid contribution.

On the other hand, when employees feel the complete opposite (secure, happy, valued etc.) they are much more willing to share instinctively.

Leaders who can create the right conditions for encouraging collaborative aspects in their business will reap the benefits. Collaboration is no longer a ‘nice to have’, it’s a crucial component of your business’s future success. If you want to have a lasting impact and the longevity as a leader that you crave, this is essential to get on board with or to take the steps to improve.