Clarifying Collaboration

If collaboration were only about working together, it would simply be called working together. But collaboration is far more complex than that. Collaborative Leadership by its very nature is an invitation to ownership and the developmental process of the people within the organization. The Collaborative Leader is generally more interested in asking the right questions that drive the right conversations than they are about barking out orders, directives, and spouting answers. They are skillful at bringing people along with them through engaging conversations and allowing them to come to the right answers, or perhaps better answers than any of us would come to alone. This leader is after buy-in, ownership, and the heart of their team. Collaborative Leaders invite their team to the table and are genuinely interested in relationships, developing and investing in their people, and engaging in dialogue that is not merely about getting greater productivity out of the work that is being accomplished, but also about the work itself. But with all that has been written on the topic of collaboration there is still much confusion about what it is. This brief list is a stab at clarifying what collaboration is by describing what it isn’t.

Being collaborative doesn’t mean that you don’t know where you are going

Being a collaborative leader doesn’t mean walking into a room full of team members not knowing where the organization is going and saying, “Alright guys, where do you think this thing should go?” Collaboration is a functional leadership style, which has more to do with how you get where you’re going as opposed to where you’re going.

Being collaborative doesn’t mean that you will be able to work with everyone

For collaboration to be effective there must be a shared sense of mission and buy-in to the direction of the organization among the team. People must genuinely be for one another because they see themselves as an extension of the mission of the organization. If you’ve got team members who are more interested in rallying support to their own agendas, can’t share recognition, power, or winning with the team they’ll end up undermining the collaborative process. Oh and by the way if the collaborative process is what you are after, they shouldn’t be on the team or at least not invited to the table.

Being collaborative doesn’t mean that everyone is a decision maker

One of the goals of collaboration is to cut across both disciplines and departments to bring the best people to the table in order to get the best work accomplished. The collaborative leader knows that none of us are as good as all of us. The collaborative process isn’t the same as a democracy or even worse sticking your finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. Just because someone has a voice into the decision and is heard, doesn’t mean they are a decision maker. Someone has to have the ability to drive the collaborative process towards a decision. If everyone has the right to make the decision, it won’t be made.

Being collaborative doesn’t mean that you’ll have harmony or consensus

The purpose of working in a collaborative manner is not simply that everyone would get on the same page or express unanimity when it comes to decision making in the organization, that everyone would be happy with the decision, or that everyone would even like each other through out the process. In fact for the collaborative process to truly work there must be dissenting voices and differing perspectives. As stated, the goal of effective collaborative work is to get everyone to bring their best to the table so that you get the best results possible that none of us would get to alone.

Posted in Leadership, Staffing

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