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Collaborative and Value Creating Influencer

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“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.”

– Reid Hoffman

Traditional leadership models are built on hierarchies and managing from the top down. But collaborative leadership is far different…

It’s a management approach that ditches the hierarchical organization model and aims to bring executives, managers, and employees to work together on achieving common goals. [1]

The model at Virgin Group exemplifies this welcome transition. “The fundamental driver of our success at Virgin has, and will always be, our people working together,” says Richard Branson. “To be successful in business, and in life, you need to connect and collaborate.” [2]

Branson’s story is all about collaboration, communication, and determination. Each venture that he undertook seemed like an impossible feat.

But…

He gathered the best people he could find for the job. Told them everything he knew and then trusted his team to work their way to success.

He gave them the benefit of learning from failure…

Some people are driven by their arrogance. They don’t understand that leaders who work collaboratively can have a big impact on their teams and organizations.

People are often insecure about collaboration. They feel that it may take the credit for their hard work away from them.

But…

This narcissistic culture can pose a serious threat to the productive and creative identity of a company. In the long run, it may also harm the company’s finances.

When people work together, they can share ideas and best practices. They can also hold each other accountable for results.

Collaborative leadership can help organizations achieve their goals.

“This isn’t a humility thing, it’s just a fact: the team is key.”

— Archana Rao, CIO

“It’s a big shift when you first become a manager,” said Atlassian’s CIO, Archana Rao. “In the past, you relied on your own individual skills, but now you’re measured based on what your team delivers. Instead of hearing about my personal contributions, I started hearing five other names of the people on my team.”

Archana describes herself now as “the internal head of IT sales”. Because she goes around telling everyone in the organization about how each person has contributed to the roll-out of a new system or created something new for the organization.

“Success is 100% based on my team. Without my team, I can’t accomplish anything.” [3]

Collaboration is never about losing your individuality. It is quite the opposite…

It is about realizing your potential, growing comfortable with taking risks, and trusting the aptitude of your workforce.

Leaders who are willing to collaborate with others are more likely to be successful. Their peers are more likely to respect them.

What it Means to be a Collaborative, Impactful Influencer…

Collaborative leaders are impactful influencers.

They understand the influence that they have. And wield their power and respect for the greater benefit of their organization.

They contribute to enacting corporate brand values through teamwork and cooperation.

In a broader scenario…

A collaborative, impactful influencer must have strong skills in playing the role of a connector, attracting and managing diverse talent.

They must know how to have a strong hand to keep teams from middling in debate.

Hear me out…

These skills are not inborn. You can learn and nurture these skills to become an impactful influencer…

Bridging the Gap, Being a Connector

Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favorite authors. His books continue to entice and shape my ideas around leadership, business, and executive culture.

In his best-selling book, The Tipping Point…

He describes a ‘connector’ not as an individual with a vast social network…

But it’s an individual who has a knack for connecting people, ideas, and resources that wouldn’t normally jar against each other.

In business, the connectors fuel collaboration…

Beth Comstock, the chief marketing officer of General Electric is famous for her weekly “BlackBerry Beth” blog, in which she shares what she has learned in her external role for busy (and perhaps more internally focused) GE managers.

The pithy and provocative blog goes out to thousands of GE’s sales, marketing, and technology leaders.

In it, Comstock passes along interesting information that people might have missed, taking care to tie it back to the challenges and opportunities GE faces. [4]

To connect their workforce to the outside world, collaborative leaders develop contacts anywhere and everywhere – from local pubs to industry associations and beyond.

They interact with people of different educational or ethnic backgrounds.

Talk with highbrows in innovation hubs such as Silicon Valley.

Mingle with tycoons from evolving economies and even adjacent industries…

These associations open their eyes to new opportunities and ideas.

Thanks to Comstock’s contacts GE is working in collaboration with NASA.

Collaborating with the Top Leadership Hierarchy

Spotting top opportunities is not enough to move forward.

Oftentimes, the efforts of employees fall flat because of the political games and turf battles of leaders higher up in the company.

Microsoft’s former executive revealed in the New York Times…

The company had developed a viable tablet a decade before Apple. But Microsoft failed to snub Apple’s smash hit launch.

Why?

Because competing divisions in Microsoft conspired to lynch the project.

Part of the problem is…

Many organizations’ structures are a way that executives are responsible for their regions, departments, products, or services.

They are either not obligated to – or don’t bother to– collaborate with other departments to run the organization’s various projects as a unified whole.

A collaborative, impactful leader works with employees as well as top leadership…

To ensure that everyone is working together towards the same goal.

Brazil’s Natura Cosméticos won a top spot on Fortune’s list of best companies for leaders. Alessandro Carlucci, the CEO, learned that competing agendas among senior executives were affecting company growth.

He went ahead and initiated an ‘Engagement Program’.

The program is aimed at the personal development of senior management.

Each executive embarked on a “personal journey” with an external coach, who met with individuals and with the team as a group. “It is a different type of coaching,” Carlucci explains.

“It’s not just talking to your boss or subordinates but talking about a person’s life history, with their families; it is more holistic, broader, integrating all the different roles of a human being.”

Roberto Pedote, Natura’s senior vice president for finance, IT, and legal affairs, adds:

“I think that the main point is that we are making ourselves vulnerable, showing that we are not supermen, that we have failures; that we are afraid of some things and we don’t have all the answers.” [5]

When you work together as a team, you’re more likely to come up with creative solutions to problems. You’re also more likely to catch errors and potential problems before they become major issues.

And, most importantly, working together as a team can help to build strong relationships that last.

When everyone is working together towards the same goal, it can increase motivation and morale.

Diversify the Team

Research suggests that diverse teams are 70% more likely to capture new markets. *

They can produce better results and perform effectively provided they are led well.

As an impactful leader, you must have the ability to bring people from different cultures, ages, backgrounds, qualifications, and experiences under one roof.

Leverage their talent to the best of your abilities.

Reckitt Benckiser, the UK-based producer of home, health, and personal care products considers the diversity of its workforce to be one of its competitive advantages—and a key reason it has seen net income grow 17% annually, on average.

No nationality dominates the company’s senior team. Two executives are Dutch, one is German, two are British, one is South African, two are Italian, and one is from India. [6]

“It doesn’t matter whether I have a Pakistani, a Chinese person, a Brit, or a Turk, man or woman, sitting in the same room, or whether I have people from sales or something else, so long as I have people with different experiences—because the chance for new ideas is much greater when you have people with different backgrounds. The chance for conflict is also higher—and conflict is good per se, as long as it’s constructive and gets us to the best idea.”

– Former CEO Bart Becht

Diversity keeps organizations going…

Nokia’s former executive team was 100% Finnish and had worked together for more than a decade. Experts claim this homogeneity was one of the reasons why they failed to see the smartphone threat emerge from Silicon Valley.

Communication is the Key

Collaborative leaders are usually good at communication and have a strong ability to listen to others.

They also tend to be open-minded and willing to consider new ideas. They have a high level of emotional intelligence.

Open communication can also lead to…

More innovative solutions, as team members are more likely to share new ideas when they feel like they are part of a collaborative process.

Robert Chatwani, CMO of an Australian software development company with annual revenue of 2.1 billion USD, shares his leadership style…

“First and foremost, I’m committed to the outcome we can achieve as a team. I’m focused on the shared purpose, but agnostic about who plays which role or how the work actually gets done. The key is to empower each person to do the best work that they can do.”

He constantly thinks about how he can help his team learn and grow so they can have a bigger impact.

Robert keeps his ear to the ground for opportunities to connect people across his organization in a few different ways.

He stops for random chats in the hallway to hear about what individuals at all levels are working on (the key here is actually listening).

He eats lunch in the communal kitchen and makes himself available for walks to talk about the long-term vision of the organization.

He also sends out a monthly note with comments on the strategy of the marketing team at large, highlights of various team wins, and recommended reading from his personal book list. [7]

But here’s the catch…

One of the biggest challenges of collaboration is…

It can take longer to make decisions, as everyone is involved in the decision-making process.

When all the employees engage in collaboration…

They wind up in endless meetings, deliberating on every idea, and generally struggle to reach a consensus.

In this scenario…

Collaboration no longer works as an oil greasing the wheel but rather the sand grinding it to a halt.

Collaborative, impactful influencers have an active part in directing their teams.

They maintain the workflow by forwarding and disbanding the teams as per the opportunities and circumstances.

The process works much like a Hollywood movie team crews – all directors, producers, writers, actors, and other crew members establish teams for the length of the movie project.

They move and work in parts as and when required.

One of the best ways is to have clear decision rights and responsibilities in place. It means not stretching meetings for endless hours.

At an appropriate point, the assignee can end the discussion and call the final shots.

Reckitt Benckiser has adopted this culture effectively…

They debate loudly and furiously until the best idea wins. If no obvious agreement is reached in time, the person chairing the meeting normally makes a decision and the rest of the group falls in line. This ensures vigorous debate but clear decisions and quick action—diversity in counsel, unity in command, as Cyrus the Great once said. [8]

Collaborative leadership is a style of leadership that can be beneficial in many situations. It can help create a more cohesive and motivated team when used effectively.

It is important to be aware of the challenges associated with this style of leadership and to make sure that everyone is on board with the collaborative process.

 

Different Ways of Collaboration

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There are many different ways of collaboration, each with its benefits. Here are a few:

1. Strategic alliances:
These are relationships between two or more organizations that have complementary goals and resources. By working together, they can achieve more than they could alone.

2. Joint ventures:
Like strategic alliances, joint ventures are collaborative relationships between two or more organizations. But joint ventures are typically closer and more long-term than alliances.

3. Cross-functional teams:
These teams bring together employees from different departments or units to work on a specific project or goal. By tapping into a variety of skills and perspectives, cross-functional teams can be very effective.

4. Peer-to-peer collaboration:
This is when employees work together as equals, without a hierarchical structure. This type of collaboration can be very beneficial, as it allows for more creativity and open communication.

5. Virtual teams:
With today’s technology, it’s easier than ever to work with people who are in different locations. Virtual teams can be very effective, as long as there are good communication and collaboration tools in place.

6. Customer/partner collaboration:
This is when organizations work closely with their customers or partners to jointly develop products, services, or solutions. This type of collaboration can lead to a better understanding of customer needs and improved relationships.

Final Thoughts…

Becoming a successful collaborative, impactful influencer is all about understanding the different ways you can work with others to achieve a common goal.

Effective collaboration is not all unicorns and rainbows and blissful harmony. You want to reach a place of harmony eventually, but the process can be messy. A collaborative leadership style is pivotable to reaching that point and is crucial to the success of business ecosystems.

Coaching 4 Companies – Your premier executive coaching service

We are a young, vibrant, and diverse executive leadership coaching group, with the operation registered in 2019, however, the formation was a 45-year career lifetime in preparation. During that period our founder Wayne Brown observed and worked with leaders of all levels in organizations across industries and cultures globally.

Based on that exposure, our company has intentionally set out to support those practicing the art and science of leadership – or as often referred to, “Executive Talent.” These are people who acknowledge that they are not experts. They are open to opportunities for continued growth and carry the desire for learning what is needed to become a success in today’s complexity and uncertainty.

To this end, we have purposely structured our company and engaged with associates in strategic global locations, so that we are able to provide the full suite of transformational executive leadership coaching, facilitation, and education support required.

References:

[1]. Andjela Vidojevic, Pumble Blog, 18th May 2022, Collaborative leadership: creating a team-centric mindset

[2]. Marla Tabaka, Inc. Magazine, 24th July 2017, Richard Branson Says Collaboration is The Key to Success. 

[3]. Ashley Faus, Work life, 20th August 2019, 8 people-first leadership stories that inspire

[4, 5, 6]. Herminia Ibarra & Morten T. Hansen, Harvard Business Review, July-August 2011, Are You a Collaborative Leader?

[7] *Nick Perry, Fundera, 16th December 2020, 20 Diversity in the Workplace Statistics to Know for 2021

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