• Being interested in staff members’
success and well-being.
What leaders can do
The process of building a collaborative culture starts with some powerful
questions: How much is it worth to
your organization? What might the
effect be of not having guarded and
conflict-avoidant conversations dominated by functional interest and limited thinking? What might it be worth,
instead, to have team members align
around shared vision and strategy, effectively negotiate multiple perspectives,
make and implement quality decisions
faster, and trust each other enough to
hold each other accountable?
As the role of leaders has changed, so
has the role of communicators. Rather
than organizing external or top-down
communication, communicators can
and must create environments through
meetings, presentations, events and
so on that encourage and enforce collaborative practices. Communicators
can guide executives they consult with
toward concrete collaborative attitudes
and behaviors in a variety of leadership
contexts. Among internal stakeholders,
communicators can use their influence
and visibility to model and to inspire
key attributes of collaboration.
If it sounds like it might be worth
the effort, how do you get there efficiently? Our firm, Collaborative
Coaching, and the customer and
employee research firm Resonance
Strategies combined our experience
in organizational effectiveness and
employee research to study what motivates or undermines collaboration on
teams. We found key behaviors that
leaders can focus on to improve the
collaborative capacity of their teams
and organizations. In reading through
the behaviors here, consider where you
might naturally focus your attention,
which of these aspects deserve more
of the limelight in explicit or implicit
communication, and which of these
aspects you wish to bring to the attention of leaders in your organization.
• Focusing both on tasks and relationships. Team members flexibly adjust
their approach toward getting tasks
accomplished—either by supporting
task and role clarity or by strengthening relationships.
• Sharing information openly. Team
members are easily accessible to each
other, generously provide contextual
information, and openly share rationales for their decisions as much as
difficulties and setbacks.
• Sharing personal stories. Individuals
provide meaningful personal information that fosters human connection, and actively work to strengthen
their relationships to build the trust
and connections required for having
• Building on each other’s ideas. Team
members acknowledge and include
the ideas of others during brainstorming and problem-solving sessions—
and actively look for connections.
• Addressing conflict in a timely way.
Conflict is addressed as or soon after
it emerges. Rather than using “
undercover” forms of venting or influencing, team members address their
differing opinions or needs directly
with each other.
• Discussing and clarifying decision-
making norms. The team deliberately
discusses and clarifies how decisions
are made and what decision-mak-
ing roles exist on the team. There is
clarity about what decisions the team
Test your collaborative
capacity by evaluating your
team on the 12 qualities of
highly collaborative teams
mentioned in this article.
You’ll get a graphic representation that shows where
you can improve.