(EDITOR’S NOTE: Just a reminder that Lee’s newest book, Engage with Honor, was released on September 7th. If you desire to be a strong influence on others during this presidential election season, this very practical “how to” book gives great insight for building the culture that you want as a leader. As Lee says, “When you become indifferent and refuse to stand up for your ideas, you forfeit and must live by the ideas of others.” Please check it out at your favorite retailer, or read more reviews at www.engagewithhonor.com.)
By Lee Ellis
If you have a highly competitive personality, perhaps collaboration is a challenge for you. After all, winning is the primary goal, right? But if you have no one to share your success, it ultimately becomes an exercise in futility. Chapter 8 in my book, Engage with Honor, addresses this topic head-on.
Collaboration in the Camps
In life and death situations of the Vietnam POW camps where leaders were often in isolated cells, collaboration was a natural leadership style (technique). Even the most confident, experienced, results-oriented warriors among us realized that they couldn’t dominate the group or withdraw and operate independently. Instead, they risked added torture and exposure reaching out to others to connect and collaborate. Senior leaders knew that their success depended on a team effort of “courageous collaboration” with their followers—it was essential for survival and success.
Competing at the Expense of Collaboration
Collaboration isn’t easy for everyone. In our early careers, we are often competitively focused on developing our own expertise and competence more than collaborating with our peers. But like the POW camps, today’s environment for success is more dependent on a team effort. With ubiquitous knowledge and rapidly changing technology, leaders are often not the experts. Like the POW leaders, they’re managing things that they have never done.
“Using collaboration is now a required ingredient in building a winning model of accountability and performance.” [Tweet This]
Collaboration can also be a challenge because it requires –
- both confidence and humility. Today’s honorable leader must confidently give away power and correct others when needed while humbly listening and learning from them.
- balancing concern for results (vision, standards, accountability) with caring for people (valuing others, supporting, encouraging, coaching). And the clincher is that we’re naturally wired to favor one over the other. Balance between these two mindsets must be learned.
Developing a Collaborative Mindset
“The entire concept of courageous collaboration is anchored in the fact that people want to succeed.” [Tweet This]
They want to be a part of something larger than themselves, they want to be valued, and they want to count for something. When the collaborative leader assumes goodwill, treats others with dignity and respect, and believes in them, they will be inspired to respond with their best. You can see that adopting this mindset as part of your leadership strategy requires confidence and courage to get past the fears that would cause many of us to control and dictate more than collaborate. That’s why courage provides the steel backbone of the Courageous Accountability Model.
Practical Benefits of Collaboration
Five proven, important benefits of collaboration are that it –
- Facilitates alignment. When individual talents are aligned and working in concert, there’s a unity of effort that brings synergy and astonishing levels of execution. Picture the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels demonstration teams or a perfect performance by the Radio City Rockettes.
- Promotes three-dimensional, 360 degree leadership and performance. When leaders collaborate with their peers, it frees their direct reports to collaborate at their peer level, breaking down silos and working more efficiently and effectively.
- Gets better results. If you look at high-performing organizations, you’ll find alignment, good communications, and leaders that trust their people to execute the mission.
- Builds teamwork and develops people. Collaboration builds trust. The better you know each person, the more effectively you can work with them or lead them. More understanding means more trust which means stronger teams that are growing as they learn from each other.
- Helps minimize risks. In the POW camps our covert communications depended on collaboration. While I was the lead communicator in my cell, I was totally dependent on my cellmates and the guys next door to “clear” for me. Their eyes and ears and danger signals made it possible for me to do my job. Likewise, working together as a team reduces risk in every workplace. Think about the operating room in a hospital. If the team of doctors, nurses, and support specialists don’t collaborate, the risk for tragedy and malpractice suits is high.
The Collaboration Payoff
If this mindset of collaborative leadership is new to you or seems hard or a bit scary, let me challenge you to consider the benefits. The payoff for your hard work is going to be better results, higher morale, better engagement and retention, and a bench of next generation leaders who are ready to step in.
Now that you know the benefits, next time we’ll look at Chapter 9 and discuss how to carry out collaborative leadership. What has been your experience? As a leader? As a follower with and without collaborative leadership? Please share your comments here.
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