“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Henry Ford
Some time ago I read that Millennials, more than previous generations, enjoy working collaboratively. In my own work life I have found a number of instances where collaboration was of great value. I’ve also seen some instances where it was a waste of time. Some of those were about the people, and some of those were about the nature of the situation.
This month we explore collaboration to identify its value. As you will see, it is not just about the results.
I appreciated one of my readers from last month, challenging me on execution as the most important role of a leader, citing that creating relationships for leaders was a critical role in creating the influence necessary to get things done well. My response was that “you are right,” and “I am right.” Here is how I combine the two thoughts. In business, making sure we’re getting the right things done with quality and on time is how we sustain our business. I would also say that the key role in having that happen is the ability of the leader to create relationships with the people performing the work. Through these relationships the leader is able to establish influence, a key component in getting the work done.
And that is why I appreciate your responses. They allow me to learn and modify my own thinking. Thank you.
Be well and do your best work,
As I sifted through references on collaboration, and thought of my own experience, I found value in collaborating in two ways. One, the act of collaborating can have great value in increasing the relationships of those participating. The second value is that the act of working with a number of high performing people, or people with a common interest, can have an energy and synergy to it that can often lead to better results. There is an intrinsic value in collaboration that is often overlooked.
In the business world, while we might like to sit around and have ‘nice’ conversations, if they don’t have a purpose, or lead to a result, they are not of much value. Where I have seen the greatest value of collaboration to the business is to improve innovation, customer relationships, and/or the efficiency of the business – process, procedure, or leveraging technology.
Understanding when collaboration is of value, and when it is not, is an important consideration. What is the nature of the problem or opportunity? Would we be better served to first work on our own (selected individuals), or would we be better served to work as a group from the outset. I don’t have firm rules about this, but I have found that if the situation requires a lot of diverse knowledge to start, then starting as a group with the proper knowledge in the room is often more efficient. Where the knowledge is possessed already by a few selected individuals (i.e., technology solutions), it is often more efficient to have them work alone to start, and then collaborate on their solutions. We shouldn’t assume that collaboration is best in all circumstances. I’ve experienced several times when individual work ahead of group work is more efficient and leads to better outcomes.
That said, the act of working together to achieve a superior answer and result is very cathartic for people. One such experience can help catapult the group of people into another level of performance. This is especially true when the problem they are working on is very difficult (“Look at what we were able to solve by working together.”)
We miss some golden opportunities of fostering the growth of our people, individually and collectively, when we simply focus on the ‘task’ at hand. If we can enlarge our focus to include the process of collaboration, with the necessary results, we have a chance to have a win: win that can assist the business, and the individuals, perform at a higher level.
One last comment on collaboration. For those people who are the collaborators, it is important to focus on the ‘good of the organization.’ Sometimes, it is easy, or tempting, to want to offer suggestions/ideas that help us ‘look good.’ I have found that those collaborators are ‘found out’ quickly. The value of the collaboration is to work on something greater than ourselves, and to focus on the common good. In this case, the department or organization.
I believe that we were built to live in community. Collaborating is an activity that fosters community and fosters our sense of value to and in the community.
To a better you…
Of Interest: Collaboration and Success
Coaching – Coaching is the fastest way to take you to another level of effectiveness.
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