It seems like every organization we work with is touting their commitment to a more collaborative workplace. The problem is that we can’t find a consistent definition of collaboration among the leaders who say they want more of it. Collaboration sounds great, but what is it and how do you make it happen?
Collaboration is about working with others to do, create or accomplish something.
Being collaborative has an underlying assumption that the sum of the individuals is greater than the individuals on their own. Creative thinking, innovation and ideas are just a few of the essential elements that are implied in collaboration.
First of all, collaboration is not guaranteed by having open work environments. Collaboration is about working together and sharing ideas. Collaboration happens when there is space in your calendar and your mind not just space around you. When you don’t have time to think or your brain is crowded with facts and figures, collaboration won’t happen.
Secondly, since collaboration is about sharing, it’s critical that the culture supports and rewards teams’ not just individuals. We recently heard about a sales compensation system where everyone in an office received a percentage of the commissions earned by the entire team. That meant that more senior sales reps benefitted from spending time with new sales reps because they knew that they would get a portion of that person’s commissions. They’ve since moved to an individual reward system. We believe that this will erode the collaboration over time since the reward system no longer values the team contribution.
You collaborate every time you work with someone else to get something done. The question you need to answer is, “how well do you collaborate?”
- Know Your Technology – are you a master of your tools? Just having Lync or Yammer does not guarantee collaboration. In fact, if it’s used poorly this can become a distraction. How many times have you been on a call that wasted ten minutes trying to make a web sharing tool work and there was no document being shared? Use the right tool for the right task.
- Create Collaboration Processes – sharing information is part of collaboration. How you do that matters. Will the information be open and available to everyone or a limited group of people? How do things get circulated? The more intentional you are about how you collaborate, the more effective your collaboration will be.
- Get Random – creativity is stimulated by accidental meetings, weird ideas and other inputs that are not in the normal stream. Make time to add something different to your life. It can be a new idea source or even a meeting with someone outside your typical meeting schedule.
We passionately believe that collaboration is critical in today’s working environment. You cannot grow to new levels of success without collaboration. So make time for collaboration, use technology wisely, be intentional about how you collaborate and get random.
A search of Amazon shows over 100,000 books available on the subject of leadership. While followership isn’t as popular (only 289 results on the topic) it’s the leading indicator of whether or not real leadership is happening.
If you don’t have followers are you really a leader? As a leader it is your responsibility to create conditions to increase the commitment of your followers.
Here are three ways that you, as a leader, can create these conditions:
- Take time - to understand and help your followers apply their strengths. Research shows that strengths based leadership significantly increases engagement which leads to greater follower commitment.
- Create connections - through community. Provide intentional opportunities for your team to develop connections in the workplace. The world of social media has demonstrated that a chorus of many voices often drowns out a single voice. Building strong communities within your followers provides a platform to lead from.
- Be a leader - that others want to follow. Model integrity, authenticity and competence to inspire followers to respect and trust in you.
The opposite of followership is desertion. Studies show that one of the most frequently cited reasons for leaving a job is a problem with the employee’s manager. This is clear evidence of failed leadership and a result of not providing conditions to increase the commitment of your followers.
Build on strengths, create communities and model the critical leadership behaviors needed to enhance your leadership through followership.
Focus on honing your leadership skills so that when you look behind you people will be following you. This is the measure of a true leader.
We were recently having a conversation with a high-tech CEO who mentioned that he was teaching his son to drive. He repeated the three instructions he gave Tyler in order to be a successful driver:
- Know the rules of the road and obey them.
- Maintain a safe distance (at least two car lengths from the car in front of you.)
- Have a 360 perspective – always know what’s going on around you.
These brilliant instructions apply to success in life as well as driving. Here’s how:
- You must know the rules. Whether you are beginning work with a new organization, starting a project or interacting with a new group, there are rules of engagement, also known as culture. The sooner you learn what the rules are the more successful you will be in getting your desired results.
- Maintain a safe distance is an excellent instruction to apply in the context of scheduling and commitments. Calendars get too crowded with meetings. People attempt to pack too much into a day and it collapses around them. We live in a perpetual state of stress because we do not put a safe distance between various parts of our lives. Determine what a safe distance is for you, maintain it and you will be more successful managing your calendar and keeping your commitments.
- Have a 360o perspective is an instruction worthy of repetition. In the chapter, Return on Luck from the book Great by Choice, Jim Collins disproved the theory of luck. He showed that companies which appeared luckier were simply prepared to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. If you aren’t paying attention to what’s going on around you then you may miss out. Get luckier by maintaining a 360o perspective.
To achieve driving success and life success, remember that you must know the rules, maintain a safe distance and have a 360o perspective.
The term “Burning Platform” is frequently used incorrectly. Read the story behind the story of the burning platform.
Daryl Conner originated the use of the burning-platform story to convey the intensity of the leadership commitment needed to succeed with major change. When leaders aren’t committed to change there is a significant risk of failure.
In addition to commitment, here are some thoughts on successfully leading change:
- Successfully leading change does not mean scaring people into the future – it does mean creating a sense of urgency.
- Successfully leading change does not mean saying the same thing over and over – it does mean that the leader casts the vision, makes the case for change and tailors the message to the audience he or she is engaged with.
- Successfully leading change does not place all the responsibility “on them” – it does meant that a leader models the change and sets an example. Sometimes, in order to lead well, a leader must go through a painful process of change themselves.
- Successfully leading change does not mean knowing all the answers – it does mean that you create certainty in a successful “what’s next” and help everyone see their place in it.
- Successfully leading change does not mean sharing facts – it does mean that you build a trusting relationship with those you are leading through change, engage their mind with facts AND their hearts with stories so their feet move the change forward.
We wish you great success in ALL the change you lead.
On a scale of one to ten, how much do you love being told? Whether you are eight, eighteen, eighty or anywhere in between, chances are, you don’t like to be told.
To get people to listen you need their attention. To get their attention you need to engage in a conversation. Unfortunately many leaders (and spouses, and parents…) communicate in such a way that they appear to be telling not conversing. So people hear what is being said without really listening.
If you want someone to listen to you, here are some critical tips:
- Who – Begin with the listener. What matters to him or her? Many times the starting point is the message and what you want to tell. We did focus groups with front line employees at an organization who told us that they really didn’t want emails about the six figure executives being hired. The message wasn’t made relevant to them so the emails were ignored or trashed.
- Why – Set the context. What is the listener supposed to do with the information? If the listener understands that they are going to give input, apply what you tell them or have to share the information with someone else they will listen differently.
- You – Focus on the listener. Create an opportunity for some type of interaction with the listener. If you don’t hear from the listener, then you are telling not conversing. You can ask for validation of understanding or confirmation of next steps. Get the listener to participate to ensure that they are listening.
- The End – Determine what needs accomplished. If you plan for a good outcome or are clear about what the ending looks like then you are better prepared to be listened to! Too many conversations wander or leave the listener wondering, “what was the point?”
“There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.”
― G.K. Chesterton
Listening requires understanding which requires attention. You can’t make anyone listen to you. They may hear you but they decide whether or not they will listen for understanding. Give them a reason to listen by engaging them where they are at, setting context, focusing on the result and involving them. Remember, “Who, Why, You…the end.”
“To say that a person feels listened to means a lot more than just their ideas get heard. It’s a sign of respect. It makes people feel valued.”
— Deborah Tannen Author and Professor of Linguistics Georgetown University
Change leaders sometimes forget that a change they’ve processed and made peace with is a new idea for the people they are sharing it with. We’ve had to remind leaders that when their team doesn’t immediately embrace a change, that doesn’t mean there is something wrong with the change (or with the leader.)
When you are introducing a change here are some tips to remember:
- Resistance is a normal, natural response. As Newton’s Third Law of Motion states, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Be prepared for pushback and realize that it’s not about you.
- Give people time. When leaders introduce change, they’ve usually had plenty of time to wrestle with information, look at options and make a decision. In other words, they’ve processed the change and they are ready to move forward. While you may not be able to give your team the same amount of time, make sure you give them enough time to process the change, ask questions and make sense of it for themselves.
- Respect. Show people that you respect and care for them by listening. Communication goes beyond telling people something. It’s always amazing to us when leaders get feedback that they need to “improve communication” and they promptly increase the number of emails they send or town halls they conduct. Communication is TWO way. You share and you listen in order to truly communicate.
- Find Nuggets. As you listen and process the feedback from people, pay attention to ideas or insights that improve upon the change. There may be things that others see which makes the change better or at least makes the change better received!
Just because you tell someone about a change doesn’t mean they fully understand or accept it…and that’s okay. It takes time to make sense out of change.
So when you are introducing a change make sure you are prepared for resistance, give people time, respect others by listening and find nuggets of wisdom to use to improve.
Whether change is initiated by you or imposed on you, your challenge is to lead well. You have a choice in the way you play your role as a leader of change. Will you be successful or ineffective?
The following critical behaviors will help you be a successful Change Leader:
- Be Yourself – authenticity is critical during change. Not everyone leads the same way, communicates the same way or connects with others in the same way. You need to use your unique abilities and strengths to lead change effectively. Understand who you are and use it to your advantage.
- Make Meaning – while communication is critical, what really matters is making meaning out of the madness that occurs during times of change. Making meaning is about connecting the disparate activities and decisions in a way that employees can make sense of them. Making meaning is contextualizing a message so it can be received and achieve its intended results.
- Believe It – you cannot lead change that you do not support. That does not mean that you can walk away from a change you disagree with. It’s your responsibility as a leader to process a change with a peer or your leadership in order to be able to believe it. It’s never appropriate to talk about your lack of belief with your team.
If you are interested in some additional perspective on behaviors that make a difference when leading change, go HERE for a document. Change may or may not be your decision. How you lead though change is always your decision. Decide today to be effective and succeed.
According to CEO Challenge 2014, a survey of CEOs, presidents and chairmen from more than 1,000 companies around the world, the top five leadership attributes are:
- Leading change
- Managing complexity
- An entrepreneurial mindset
- The ability to retain and develop talent
Our reflections on these leadership attributes:
- Integrity – results and relationships are the twin markers of this attribute. As a leader are you achieving results and maintaining great relationships or are you leaving a wake of dead bodies behind you as you accomplish great things? Integrity is also about wholeness. Are you living a fully integrated life that reflects all of who you are?
- Leading change – in order to lead you must have followers. In order to lead change you must build trust, communicate effectively, build support for the changes and be an exemplar for the change. Being an exemplar of change leads back to integrity. If your words and actions don’t match (integrity) you will lose trust and be a poor representative of the change.
- Managing complexity – we are drowning in information, activities and stuff. Enough already! The best leaders make meaning out of the madness and simplify whenever possible. The business methodology of the same name addresses the activities around the four pillars of strategy, transparency, total value chain and sustainability. All that translates into focusing on what really matters and eliminating the rest. Are you simplifying or making things more complex?
- An entrepreneurial mindset – this does not mean starting new businesses! This is about taking risks and having perseverance. An entrepreneurial mindset involves taking advantage of opportunities in the market by planning, organizing and making use of resources. Are you taking advantage of opportunities by paying attention and being ready to respond?
- The ability to retain and develop talent – people are not fungible resources that can be swapped out like a hard drive. This is a knowledge economy and the real winners are leaders who pay attention to the strengths of their people and build high performing teams by leveraging strengths. This is what the engagement research is all about. It’s nice if your people rate you highly on engagement survey but what really matters is whether or not your people are bringing all of themselves to work every day and giving you their discretionary effort.
Assess yourself against these five leadership attributes and determine your strengths and where you can make some improvements. You are a leader in some capacity of your life. Maximize your potential and apply these top five leadership attributes.
This is dedicated to everyone who has experienced challenges as they work with a leader of change. In change management lingo this is a sponsor, but for our purposes we’ll call him or her a Change Leader.
What happens when your Change Leader (Sponsor) stops leading the change? They may be moving to a new role, taking a new job or simply been reassigned to something different. The bottom line is that you are responsible for accomplishing something and the leader supporting hat change is not there. The impact of Sponsor Shift can be devastating to important, meaningful change.
There are two approaches to dealing with Sponsor Shift one is preventative (anticipating that it may happen in the future) and the other is corrective (when Sponsor Shift occurs.)
- Be Prepared - set expectations at the beginning of every project by making sure the Change Leader understands and commits to be the owner of the change until they transition it to a new supporting leader. Add this to the standard list of change risks and address it with the Change Leader before it becomes an issue. Create a plan that addresses how to make a transition without impacting the outcomes.
- Build Connections – Change Leaders don’t work in a vacuum. One of the critical responsibilities for all change leaders is to get their peers on board with the change they are leading. This is not a presentation in a meeting, this happens through 1:1 conversations about why the change matters and what’s in it for them (WIIFM.) Gaining other leaders buy-in helps create critical mass and a “tipping point” of support which can transcend Sponsor Shift.
- Back to Basics – it’s easy to assume that when a new Change Leader assumes responsibility that they fully understand the change, its importance and their role. This is a deadly assumption. When a new Change Leader is appointed, evaluate them as a new stakeholder and assess their level of commitment and competence. Then use your change management expertise to determine the best course of action to ensure that they fully understand the change, its importance and their role.
New leaders often kill projects (changes) for emotional reasons and then provide business logic to support their decision. No amount of business case analytics will overcome the gut reaction to support or oppose a change they are tasked with leading.
Therefore, spend time on building in the peer support and creating a risk management plan. If Sponsor Shift occurs, make sure you are intentional about applying excellent change management and recognize the new Change Leader is working through their personal change process.
The dictatorial style of the past is passé. Last week’s sudden ouster of Jill Abramson as executive editor of the New York Times has stoked conversations about how much a modern leader must soften his or her style to be effective, the WSJ reports.
Intent versus Impact
It’s important to realize that intent and impact are often different. For example, you may have a critical meeting you need to prepare for so you rush into the office and head straight for your desk. However, ignoring people as you walk in may signal to others that you are mad, frustrated or some other unpleasant adjective. Most leaders and managers aren’t intentionally mean but the impact of their words and actions can be interpreted in a less than positive manner.
- Ask – check with those around you. Ask about your impact. You don’t know if you don’t ask. We suggest the SKS approach:
- What should I Stop doing?
- What should I Keep doing?
- What should I Start doing?
- Assess – there are many different assessments you can take to learn more about yourself and the impact your personality traits can have. You learn how you show up in normal circumstances and how stress impacts you. Whether it’s MBTI, DiSC, Social Styles or a 360 assessment, invest the time to better understand yourself and your style. Assess yourself and understand your strengths. Then consider how you can use them to positively impact those around you.
What some people intend as direct and focused conversation, the recipients may interpret as intense or uncomfortable. The more you are aware of how people experience you, the more effective you can be in your role. Mind your style and maximize your impact.