“They’re always working in isolation, pursuing their own solution.”
“Bob continues to withhold relevant information and expertise.”
“She only ever gets involved when it’s a project with high exposure to the CEO.”
Have you heard these before? I know I have.
They are typically the excuses we give when a project has faltered, we can’t work with someone or we don’t have the answer.
And they are not wrong. Unfortunately we all know someone who works like this. Maybe sometimes, if we are being brutally honest, we have been guilty of the same?
They are collaboration killers and the trick to dealing with them is not to continue the persecution of the perpetrators but to turn the lens on yourself first. I have talked about turning the lens on yourselves before, this is not a new concept. When it comes to driving collaboration, the key is to be open to the fact that often we (i.e. Managers) can be the cause for the lack of collaboration in a business.
I was discussing this very fact recently with an organisational team that included Managers, direct reports, colleagues and individual contributors. I split them into groups and I asked them two questions:
- What do you do when you (the organisation) are at your worst? What are the activities, behaviours, actions of people? How are people feeling?
- What do you do when you (the organisation) are at your best? What are the activities, behaviours, actions of people? How are people feeling?
It was a very revealing exercise and the team had some great insights and ‘aha’ moments. In fact, I encourage everyone to ask these questions at your next team meeting!
The insights corresponded with a model I came across that was developed by Pollyanna Pixton and Paul Gibson. They identified that the leadership style plus the level of team ownership are the biggest considerations when driving collaboration in an organisation. Our management style will drive certain types of non-collaborative behaviour:If our style of management is to control so that we micromanage the team and at the same time the level of team ownership is low then the team will continually look to us for the answer, they will essentially stop ‘thinking’ because we will do it for them. At the same time, if the control is too high and the team is passionate about what they do and actually have a high level of ownership, conflict ensues, heads butt against each other and generally an impasse is reached.
The ideal environment for collaboration is to have a trusting leadership and business style, mixed with a high level of team ownership so that the experts you have hired and no doubt pay good money to, can get on with the job. They are empowered and supported, they have the energy and the space to think creatively.
So the next time you find yourself concerned about your organisation’s collaborative behaviour, look at yourself first and consider what behaviours or actions may be driving some of that.
If you would like Sarah and the New Voice team help you explore and develop collaboration within your organisation and team, contact us for details of the in-house Collaboration workshop.