Collaboration is a buzzword in modern business. But it doesn’t happen overnight, especially if you are seeking to transform outmoded models of command and control, says Carol Kinsey Goman, writing for Forbes.
Innovative practices are essential if you want to boost your company with 21st-century thinking.
Here are six leadership tactics that can help you remove the obstacles blocking a more collaborative culture within your organisation:
1) Tackle silo mentality. It’s long been established that silos – departments that segregate themselves and don’t share relevant information with other sectors of the same company – are the enemy of collaboration. When leaders set common goals for the whole organisation, rewarding cooperation and unified achievements, then the barriers will start to break down.
2) Establish trust. It’s the cornerstone of successful collaboration. Teams working together need to trust each other; they also need to know that their leader has faith in them. It’s easy to pay lip service here, so try to be open in your communications. Make time to get to know your team as individuals and encourage them to mix socially to build personal relationships.
3) Be aware of your body language. The way you hold yourself communicates how you are feeling and can influence your employees. “There are two sets of body language cues that people look for in leaders. One set projects warmth and caring, and the other signals power and status,” writes Gorman.
Although our body language is largely automatic, by becoming more aware, you can control and utilise it. Facing people when you speak to them, for example, indicates your interest in what they are saying.
“Even rotating your shoulders a quarter turn away signals a lack of interest and makes the other person feel as if their opinions are being discounted.”
4) Encourage cross-pollination. Putting together a group of similarly highly proficient people is not necessarily the most effective model for collaboration. Experiments at the University of Michigan concluded that mixed ability combinations tackled tricky dilemmas more effectively.
5) Develop empathy. Learn to really listen to your staff and respond with compassion. Goman quotes psychologist Carl Rogers’s book On Becoming a Person:
“Real communication occurs when we listen with understanding – to see the idea and attitude from the other person’s point of view, to sense how it feels to them, to achieve their frame of reference in regard to the thing they are talking about.”
6) Make teams feel emotionally safe. As humans, our willingness to collaborate is governed by two primeval instincts and these will kick in if we don’t feel adequately secure.
We are programmed to hoard what we have when we feel threatened and information is no exception. If you criticise or ignore your employees’ ideas and insights, they can feel too threatened to attempt to contribute.
By contrast we are a species that likes to share knowledge and learn from one another. As a leader you can stimulate this instinct by helping employees to feel safe and valued in the workplace.
Effective collaboration is more vital than ever in the contemporary fast-paced business environment. Following these six key steps will put you on the right road.