Saturday, June 11, 2011

Collaboration Is a Team Sport - Three simple ideas for a collaborative foundation

The advantages of collaboration on innovation and success is clear.  Correspondingly, a challenge of any workplace is to foster collaboration. 

A recent series on the Harvard Business Review (HBR) blog reminded me that many of our simple, Lead-Quietly ideas help make collaboration happen.

In Embedding Collaboration from the Start, HBR senior editor, Jimmy Gutterman reminds us that collaboration needs to be cultivated.  He writes, 
Of course we all need to collaborate more and better. Yet it's also one of those functions that many companies hope will just happen. Let's put a bunch of good, motivated people together and the collaboration will take place, right? It's not that easy — leaders must create conditions in which collaboration is inevitable.

I'm sure that many of us can cite examples of groups that were thrown together and couldn't find the path to collaboration.  So what can leaders do to create a collaborative environment?

In a followup post on the HBR blog entitled, Collaboration Is a Team Sport, and You Need to Warm Up, author Adam Richardson, answers the leader question by employing some themes that have frequently been explored here on Lead Quietly.  Those themes are community, trust,  and communication.  

He writes, 
Sustainable collaboration is best when the people know and trust each other. Ideally they have met in person, know a bit about each other personally as well as professionally, have a sense of communication and work styles, and what the individual strengths, weaknesses and points of view are.

Leaders should ask themselves if they are creating opportunities "to consciously and actively help people get to know each other in these ways as much as possible before they are put together on projects."

Here are three simple Lead Quietly ideas for building a collaborative environment.

Know your team.  It starts with knowing  about your team and their lives, including spouses, children, and passions.  As Linda Hill and Kent Lineback state in their book, Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader
If you don’t know your people, you cannot make intelligent decisions about assignments for them, and you cannot capture their commitment or decide how much to trust and delegate to them.

Build Trust.  Work on trust every day.  Remember that trust begets trust, and that building trust is easy.  Follow the simple tips I cited in Building Trust Every Day - It's Important, It's Easy

Show Gratitude.  Gratitude in the form of a simple thank you may be the simplest and most powerful community building tool available.  I wrote in Building Community: Thank you, as a way of leading, "Look at your team members or coworkers directly in the eye and say thank you. I believe you'll instantly realize the power of gratitude."

The HBR articles remind me that good collaboration starts with a foundation based on good community.  I believe that good community starts with three simple tips:

  1. Know your team
  2. Build Trust
  3. Show Gratitude
Thanks for reading.  Please lead quietly.