To be an effective leader—in an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) business environment—leaders need to develop the ability to build collaborative relationships. The ability to build coalitions and work collaboratively becomes even more important as a leader takes on more and more responsibility and the organization grows.
Collaboration is no longer a “nice to do” idea. It is a leadership requirement needed to get results and advance in any organization. There are skills any leader can hone to become more effective in the workplace.
Let Go of Having All the Answers
The reality is, no single leader can possibly have all of the answers. Complex business decisions require the collective input of many stakeholders. Clinging to the belief that you need to have all of the answers leads to two negative outcomes: burnout and perception of arrogance from others. Let go of the need to be “right” and “prepared,” and allow yourself to be influenced by the opinions of others.
Listening Leads to Effective Leadership
In order to be open to and consider the opinions of others, you need to listen. Active listening is a skill that involves focus, energy, and commitment. Great active listeners seek to understand others instead of thinking up what they're going to say. The best listeners demonstrate their openness by asking insightful questions and summarizing what they've heard to make sure they comprehended it correctly.
Lead Sideways, Not Just Up and Down
Leading sideways means being a leader – and sometimes follower – amongst your peers. It means paying attention to what’s important to your peers and looking for ways to help them achieve their goals. Collaboration isn’t just about political horse-trading (you wash my hands, and I’ll wash yours) – it’s about looking for ways to combine resources and talents to achieve extraordinary results for the organization.
Build Personal Relationships
When you take the time to get to know someone personally, it becomes easier to build trust, resolve conflicts, and collaborate. Regular coffee, lunch, or after-hour informal get-togethers will help lay the foundation for collaboration. Teambuilding events and activities can help build relationships in a group or team by allowing everyone a chance to get to know one another better.
Establish Trust in Your Leadership
Trust can make an enormous difference when it comes to your team's performance and morale. You can work to build trust on your team by being honest, holding everyone equally accountable, and appropriately recognizing employee achievements.
Keep Your Commitments
When you walk out of a meeting or end a phone call, and you say you’re going to do something, keep your commitments! Collaboration is hard work and requires extra effort to not only do your own work but to provide information and resources to somebody else so they can do their work. Missing deadlines and ignoring the concerns of others is a surefire way to erode trust and respect.
It’s easy to collaborate with people who are “PLUs” (people like us). It gets messy when we try to solve problems and make decisions with “PNLUs” (people not like us) However when you get people with different perspectives together to solve a problem, you’re more likely to come up with bolder, more creative solutions.
Learn the Art of Asking Questions
Asking, instead of telling is a great way to involve others. Use these four magic words to encourage collaboration: “What do you think?”
Learn to Resolve Conflict
Collaboration can be messy and conflict is inevitable. If there's never any conflict on your team, you’re probably not really collaborating. Good conflict resolution skills, such as empathy, mediation, and compromise, go a long way toward turning an uncomfortable situation into an opportunity for growth or innovation.
Learn How to Make Consensus Decisions
Involving others in the decision-making process can harness the collective wisdom of talented individuals, and gain critical buy-in through ownership of the decision, speeding up implementation.
Follow these ten tips and you’ll become known as a collaborative leader – a leader that helps to produce extraordinary results by leveraging the collective talent of the entire enterprise.