In this post, we shall discuss how leaders can promote collaboration in the workplace. We shall learn the advantages of collaborative leadership, the characteristics of a collaborative leader and different ways this can be implemented.
In a 2017 study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity, it was found that organizations that promote collaboration are five-times ahead in performance as compared to organizations that don’t. In order to foster collaboration, it is important that leaders steer the ship in the right way.
What is collaborative leadership?
Collaborative leadership is a practice aimed at improving team-work between managers, executives and staff. In traditional organizations, we see that not everyone has access to the information. They also have an inefficient method of distributing responsibility. This cannot be applied to today’s workplace.
Today, information is shared seamlessly across hierarchies and everyone is expected to take equal responsibility. This can only be achieved by proper collaboration for which a collaborative leadership becomes important. According to Harvard Business Review, collaborative leaders tend to seek different ideas and opinions among the team-members in order to solve problems. This improves engagement, accountability and trust in the team.
Why should we encourage collaborative leadership?
We should encourage collaborative leadership as it brings several benefits. Collaboration certainly invokes a sense of friendliness and comfort in the workspace. It allows creativity and playfulness to flow, all with a sense of shared purpose. Many studies have gone to show how much more important collaborative leadership.
- In a 2019 study by Clear Company, it was found that 97% of employees and executives believe a lack of alignment in a team will impact the outcome of a task or a project.
- Another finding in the same study was that 86% of employees and executives blame a lack of a collaboration or miscommunication for failures in the workplace.
- Collaboration also plays a big role in employee longevity, with 54% of employees saying that a strong sense of community kept them at a company longer than was in their best interest.
- When effective communication is practiced in organizations, they were 4.5 times more likely to retain the best employees
- It has also been found that 33% of millennials wants collaborative workspaces
- 33% of surveyed employees believe their organization doesn’t collaborate enough
- Despite all this, only 5.9% of companies communicate goals daily
If we need to create better workplaces with more effective communication, superior productivity and ultimately a finer sense of purpose for employees, collaborative leadership is necessary.
What benefits does collaborative leadership bring to the organization?
A collaborative leadership brings about more than just a positive cheerfulness and friendly attitude to an organization.
- A collaborative leadership can lead to a more open-environment. It can bring out a climate where members are honest with each other, both in positive and negative aspects. It also allows creative and ingenuity to flow freely without the fear of judgement or harassment.
- It can also create a team where everyone is willing to accept responsibility. Accepting responsibility is not always an easy task. With responsibility come accountability, transparency and a whole lot of genuine work. But in a collaborative environment, members will be more accepting of responsibility as they know they are not alone in handling the pressure. They have the assured support of every other member in the team.
- Since everyone has a role and responsibilities, a collaborative environment ensures a better decision-making process. Here, the decision-making does not come from one single person, but by the entire team. This will ultimately lead to an increase in the sense of ownership, followed by a stronger commitment to the goal itself.
- A collaborative leader also encourages generation of newer ideas. It is not just the sharing of thoughts and ideas that exist out there but a willingness to work together and bring about something entirely new. An organization’s think tank doesn’t necessarily have to be a room full of scientists. Any group of employees that genuinely love the company can bring about a great change when they work together.
- We might have commonly heard, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” It might not always be so. When employees work in good collaboration, internal politics and misunderstandings come to a minimum. ‘I’ becomes ‘we’ and ‘me’ becomes ‘the team’. With more focus on the goal, rather than striving to outrun each other, the team members become more productive.
- Organizations spend millions on finding new talent and new leadership for their teams. They also spend time and resources to train leaders for more effective management. With collaborative leadership, future leaders can be identified. Those who have a sense of authority, ability to negotiate and good communication can be chosen from right within, saving the company a lot of time and money.
- When there is collaborative leadership, employees feel cared for. In return, they strive to increase their work efficiency and also stick to the vision and values of the team.
What are the characteristics of a collaborative leader?
Research studies have shown that collaborative leaders have some important characteristics in common, such as:
Active participation in coaching
Collaborative leaders tend to get their hands dirty in coaching and mentoring programs. Those organizations where the coaching was not that formal and uptight were found to have better collaboration. When leaders truly want to lead rather than being forced to lead, the outcome will be quite different. They share their knowledge and experience in a deeper and more intimate manner that resonates well with their team-members.
Clarifying roles of team-members
Team-members have different roles with a varying set of responsibilities. When the roles are not clearly defined, not only does performance dip, but miscommunication and misunderstandings are more likely to occur.
The team is bound to have a higher number of internal conflicts. When a member’s role is defined clearly and he/she has understood it properly, the role is performed better with more ambiguity.
Advocating collaboration in the team
It becomes a problem when the person chosen for collaborative leadership doesn’t believe in it themselves. When the team has a leader who believes strongly in great collaboration, they start leading by example and actions and not just words and policies.
Collaborative leadership itself should be seen as a shared vision for all the employees of the organization, ensuring it gets implemented effectively.
Building relationships between team-members
Collaboration is all about different people with different personalities and skill-sets working together. A collaborative leader would want to connect to them all. He/she becomes the necessary straw that stirs the drink. They not only build relationships with the members, but also help the members interact with each other in a better manner. This is done not just by example but also various manners like communication exercises, strategies and tools.
How can leaders promote collaboration in the workplace?
In this section, we shall discuss the various methods a leader can use to promote collaboration in the workplace.
Increase your availability
Leaders tend to lead more by example than words alone. When leaders are more available physically with team members, it ensures better team-collaboration. This of course doesn’t mean a leader should be present with the team all the time. That can have a negative impact on performance. When leaders make an effort to talk to and listen to their team, they are instilling a culture of participation, helping and supporting one another.
Encourage a shared purpose
A shared purpose is the crux of collaboration. When a team has a shared goal with a shared vision and values, they tend to work better together. A shared purpose motivates performance without it being commanded from the top. It also instills more passion and commitment to the organization.
Build trust in the team
Trust is built on effective communication. And communication is a two-way street with many factors like conflict resolution, formal meetings and decision-making. In many organizations, it is noted that employees are distrusting of their managers and vice-versa. The more mutual the trust, the more effective and intimate the collaboration.
Encourage and understand diversity
In an era where diversity is taking the spotlight in every corner, it is important that the workplace encourages it. Employees need to understand the importance of learning about their peers and the different cultures they belong to. Culture is not only about food and fashion. It is also the various behaviors, thoughts and values of a certain group of people.
A person’s culture can also affect the way they perceive an organization, communication and collaboration. By encouraging diversity, a team can use the strengths or various cultures for their own good.
Resolve conflicts amicably
There is no team without conflicts. Even the most unified team will have a conflict sooner or later. The more we encourage people to speak up and voice out their opinions, the more there will be conflicts. The attitude of a collaborative leader should be not to avoid conflicts but to face them head-on constructively.
Principles of management teach us that there are many strategies that can be implemented for conflict resolution. For example, avoidance, competition, accommodation and compromise are many such strategies. A collaborative approach, where feedback is received in an open and honest manner, is the best method to face conflicts.
Share information with each other
From a vertical structure, organizations are moving towards a flatter structure. This endeavors to create shared responsibility and a better performance, but requires honesty and transparency of information. When employees have better access to the right information, their ownership and team-cohesion automatically improves. Sharing information also increases trust and honesty within the team.
In this post, we have discussed how leaders can promote collaboration in the workplace. We also understood the advantages of collaborative leadership, the characteristics of a collaborative leader and different ways it can be implemented.
Frequently asked questions: (How do leaders promote collaboration?)
How can we promote collaboration?
Promoting collaboration in the workplace can be done by various strategies. A few of them are given below.
- Communicating expectations clearly
- Sharing goals and mission statements regularly
- Clearly defining goals
- Opening up communication in an effective and positive manner
- Promoting a creative environment
- Encouraging the sharing of knowledge and resources
- Leading by example
- Bring out unique strengths of different team members
- Rewarding teamwork
What is the role of a leader in collaboration?
The main role of a collaborative leader is to facilitate collaboration among the team members. The leader encourages interaction and team-work, all towards a common goal with a shared vision and values. Leaders help their teams develop those collaborative skills that will ensure better productivity in a better environment.
What are strong collaboration skills?
For a person to be more collaborative in the workplace, they should hone skills like effective communication, active listening and taking responsibility for their mistakes. In a team which is diverse, and comprises people of many different cultures and backgrounds, respecting diversity is also a skill that needs to be developed.