Collaborative Leadership in the Workplace

Lake Effects Blog

Friday, March 06, 2015

When discussing leadership strategies for the workplace, the term “collaborative leadership” surfaces frequently. It is a methodology that is essential to the success of all businesses regardless of product, service or niche, and has less to do with manager versus employee than employee versus employee engagement.

The goal of collaborative leadership is to eliminate the biggest threat to business productivity; the silo mentality. Businesses are now realizing that the ability to recruit star players to your organization does not ensure success if those players are not encouraged to collaborate as a team. Or if they are not shown how to value inspiration and innovation from all possible sources.

In business, fostering a collaborative culture means more than sharing ideas, it means instilling a set of universal corporate values which reward diversity in experience, creative thought and personal contribution. Leaders that are able to create and sustain the culture are able to fully optimize all talent and human resource to the success of their organization.

How can managers modify their leadership approach to create a collaborative business environment?

Fostering Group Accountability

In the majority of bureaucratic organizations, the emphasis is placed on individualism. The employee is taught to contribute their best within their role, and directed to apply themselves to whatever tasks are assigned within the scope of their title and responsibility. The “silo effect” happens when employees become convinced that their contribution has only a marginal impact on the overall success of the organization.

In the North American business culture where titles mean everything, how do you teach employees that their skills and ideas are welcome beyond the functional territory of their own role or department? How do you teach employees that crowdsourcing for solutions to problems and new approaches is vital to the growth of your organization?

Focus on People Not Software

Collaborative software can make communication far easier on projects, but there is no platform capable of building a team. Software is a tool to optimize efficiency but training a team to share, delegate and remain open to innovation is a habit that is learned through observation and modeled by effective leadership. Leaders who demonstrate an openness to innovation build teams who emulate that behavior.

Share the Vision

In bureaucratic business environments, strategic planning is shared only with upper or C-level managers and executives. To be successful however, that vision needs to be embraced by every member of the organization. Businesses that make every employee a stakeholder in its operational goals win by creating buy-in.

Insource for New Ideas

There is nothing more deflating than outsourcing before insourcing. Businesses that are successful at sustaining collaborative environments look internally first for new required skillsets, and they do not only rely on personnel files; they ask. The new graduate in an entry level position may be a whiz at ecommerce and able to contribute valuable skills and insights. Do not limit your queries by age or experience, instead do some digging to find hidden resources within your own team.

Acknowledge Group Achievement

Even the most seasoned collaborative leader can get this part wrong. After encouraging employees to share ideas and to execute strategies as a group, are you compelled to acknowledge or reward an individual? True collaborative business environments provide group acknowledgement and edify the process of working together and the net win. The emphasis is not on one or two star players, it is on the team. Group reward and acknowledgement is key.

Share your experience and leadership insights with us. In what way has your organization strived to create a more collaborative work environment? Leave a comment below.


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