These 6 attributes may not be the familiar leadership competences taught at many business schools but it is my belief that they underpin success in today’s collaborative world.
The terrain will change, but collaborative leaders are patient with their partners and with themselves. Your direction may be clear, but you will need a flexible approach to getting there and accept that this will take time.
2. Collective decision making
Decisions made by leaders in isolation and enforced by hierarchical power aren’t sustainable in today’s world. Inclusive decision making informed by bottom up data is key.
3. Quick thinking
You need to be able to see both opportunities and risks before others do, and act in response to them. This requires a quick intellect, and the confidence and courage to implement new ideas whilst taking people with you.
The world we describe isn’t a stable one. Governments come and go; dramatic events happen, you cannot produce a detailed plan of action and expect to see it through step by step. Successful collaborative leaders are tenacious in the pursuit of results that deliver the overall common purpose.
5. Building relationships
Collaborative leaders go out to find future partners, identify sponsors, make new alliances – and are prepared to do all this in unexpected places. They invest energy in doing this sort of networking activity ahead of time, so they can call on these relationships when the pressure is on.
6. Handling conflict
Interdependent relationships are multi-layered and always contain seeds of possible conflict. Collaborative leaders don’t see conflict as a mark of failure – rather it is part of the territory, and they are confident in holding the difficult but necessary conversations that help to bring about a resolution.
As you move up in an organization, people increasingly look to you for answers.
But the best leaders don’t provide all of the solutions — they inspire curiosity, creativity, and deeper thinking in their employees. And that starts with asking the right questions.
Encourage your employees to slow down and explain what they’re proposing in more detail by saying something simple and to-the-point, like “Wait, what?” You could also use phrases like “I wonder why…” to encourage curiosity. And then follow up with “I wonder if things could be done differently.”
Another question to try: “How can I help?” – this question forces your colleague to define the problem, which is the first step toward owning and solving it.
Curated by Trevor Lee
How we can bring Edison’s world-changing collaboration process into the digital age.
When we call Thomas Edison to mind, our first thought is of a brilliant inventor and innovator whose creations transformed modern life. We often think of him toiling away in a laboratory all by himself, long into the wee hours of the morning.
And yet, we rarely consider the role that collaboration played in Edison’s world-changing success. Tangled in the lore of the lone American inventor, our mind’s eye conjures Edison’s spray of white hair, his signature bow tie, and we quickly ascribe his 1,093 US patents to innate genius.
Tempting as it is to sustain this image of Edison, it is inaccurate. In an age when we speak of Thomas Edison and Steve Jobs in the same breath, it’s important to refresh our understanding of the pivotal role collaboration played in Edison’s innovation prowess. He viewed collaboration as the beating heart of his laboratories, a sustaining resource which fuelled the knowledge assets of his sprawling innovation empire.
Thomas A Edison
Rising from humble beginnings, Edison was largely self-educated, pursuing his relentless passion for learning well into his 70s, when he taught himself botany. Deeply skilled in chemistry, telegraphy, acoustics, materials science, and electro-mechanics, Edison’s thirst for discovery began in his early teens and never ceased. Like a magnetic force all its own, Edison’s brainy leanings drew others to his quests, attracting bright colleagues with a huge diversity of skills.
From his earliest years renting space in workshops and small laboratories, Edison collaborated with others. Realizing the value of sharing his inspirations with people who held different skills than he did, Edison felt a unique bond with those who labored with him. In establishing his famed Menlo Park Laboratory at the age of 29, Edison journeyed from the failure of his first patented invention at age 22 to becoming a world-renowned inventor in just 7 years, establishing collaboration practices which came to be a signature of his campus-style operations.
Midnight Lunch – Published by Wiley – is a book from his descendant Sarah Miller Caldicott. It challenges each reader to examine the ambitions they’ve set for themselves, re-imagining what one person is capable of producing when they work in true collaboration.
The linkage between innovation and collaboration underscores why Edison’s collaborative approach becomes such a relevant subject for us now. Given the increased scrutiny placed on the role of innovation as a driver of growth for every economy – whether emerging or developed – we must ask whether collaboration is also engaged. Like a symbiotic organism which can only thrive when its host is present, innovation can only gain sustainable traction when true collaboration also exists.
I had the privilege of a pre-publication read of Midnight Lunch (Edisonian employee ritual) and can’t recommend it highly enough for any that see innovation and collaboration as the way to future business success and a higher purpose.
© Wiley Publishing and Author Sarah Miller Caldicott
Twitter: @WileyBiz and @SarahCaldicote
Curated by Trevor Lee
We all want to know that our jobs matter.
When an employee’s work seems lacklustre, or office morale is low, remind them of who their work helps.
Giving someone a concrete picture of their work’s impact can be self-affirming as well as motivational.
Studies have shown that cooks feel more motivated and work harder when they see people eating their food, for example.
Even if the results of your employees’ work aren’t so tangible, giving them specific names and stories of those who’ve benefited from their efforts can offer a window into the good that their work does.
So take time to talk about the customer who is able to make more sales (and therefore a better living) thanks to your company’s software, or the parent who’s driving a safe car thanks to diligence on the assembly line.
The key is to make a direct connection from the employee to those who benefit from their work.
Curated by Trevor Lee
When your top team fails to function, it will likely paralyze the whole company.
Few teams function as well as they could. But the stakes get higher with senior-executive teams: dysfunctional ones can slow down, derail, or even paralyze a whole company. McKinsey in their work with top teams at more than 100 leading multinational companies, including surveys with 600 senior executives at 30 of them, they identified three crucial priorities for constructing and managing effective top teams. Getting these priorities right can help drive better business outcomes in areas ranging from customer satisfaction to worker productivity and many more as well.
1. Get the right people on the team . . . and the wrong ones off
Determining the membership of a top team is the CEO’s responsibility—and frequently the most powerful lever to shape a team’s performance. Many CEOs regret not employing this lever early enough or thoroughly enough. Still others neglect it entirely, assuming instead that factors such as titles, pay grades, or an executive’s position on the org chart are enough to warrant default membership. Little surprise, then, that more than one-third of the executives they surveyed said their top teams did not have the right people and capabilities.
The key to getting a top team’s composition right is deciding what contributions the team as a whole, and its members as individuals, must make to achieve an organization’s performance aspirations and then making the necessary changes in the team. This sounds straight-forward, but it typically requires conscious attention and courage from the CEO; otherwise, the top team can under-deliver for an extended period of time.
2. Make sure the top team does just the work only it can do
Many top teams struggle to find purpose and focus. Only 38 percent of the executives McKinsey surveyed said their teams focused on work that truly benefited from a top-team perspective. Only 35 percent said their top teams allocated the right amounts of time among the various topics they considered important, such as strategy and people.
3. Address team dynamics* and processes
A final area demanding unrelenting attention from CEOs is effective team dynamics, whose absence is a frequent problem: among the top teams McKinsey studied, members reported that only about 30 percent of their time was spent in “productive collaboration”—a figure that dropped even more when teams dealt with high-stakes topics where members had differing, entrenched interests.
Correcting dysfunctional dynamics requires focused attention and interventions, preferably as soon as an ineffective pattern shows up.
Finally, most teams need to change their support systems or processes to crystalize and embed change.
Each top team is unique, and every CEO will need to address a unique combination of challenges.
Developing a highly effective top team typically requires good diagnostics, followed by a series of workshops and field work to address the dynamics of the team while it attends to hard business issues. The best top teams will begin to take collective responsibility and to develop the ability to maintain and improve their own effectiveness, creating a lasting performance edge.
© McKinsey & Co • Michiel Kruyt, Judy Malan, and Rachel Tuffield
*To build strong teams I recommend:
The Gabriel Institute
Curated by Trevor Lee
Collaboration takes time and resources. So if you want people to work together, you have to make it as easy as possible.
For example, you can use simple, off-the-shelf tools like Dropbox and Skype to help people share and communicate. (Be sure that any programs you use work seamlessly with your IT system.)
If some of your employees aren’t confident with the technology, pair them with someone who is. People are much more likely to adopt a new technology if they have someone they can turn to for help, rather than learning it on their own or relying on an IT hotline.
And for major collaboration projects, consider assigning co-leaders who can shoulder the administrative burdens.