Only Through Collaboration

“A team is not a group of people who work together, 

it is a group of people who trust each other.”

                                                                                                             -S. Sinek

A friend, who is the CEO of a local business, contacted me the other day wanting to share a recent teamwork experience that evolved from a virtual meeting a few weeks ago.  The original plan was to spend an afternoon with her team discussing ideas for an upcoming forum the organization would be hosting.  She had envisioned the event, spent a great deal of time planning and developed several ideas she looked forward to sharing with the team.  But soon after the meeting began it became evident that the team’s ideas were heading in a different direction than she had anticipated.

It seemed that her team members had each done their homework as well, and one after another shared their thoughts and ideas; which were creative, substantive and clearly different from her own.  Excitement filled the screen and everyone seemed to be in sync with each other.  She watched and listened as a new team member launched into a variation on an idea that the entire group seemed to originally love.  The room then erupted with other ideas building off the original one.  The meeting lasted 45 minutes beyond the scheduled time frame.

As we continued our discussion she shared, “You could feel the energy, but the most amazing part was watching how much the team enjoyed working together.  Our meeting ended with a clear plan for the event that was better than anything I could have ever envisioned.”  Later, as I reflected on my conversation, two important lessons emerged:

  1. While it is important for leaders to fight for their ideas, the most successful leaders are secure enough to embrace and encourage action on the thoughts of those with better ideas.

  2. Successful organizations possess leaders who recognize that without collaboration, there can be no teamwork.

You will note that I used the term, “collaboration”.  Some refer to collaboration as a refined version of cooperation, but that would be inaccurate.  According to John Maxwell, an American author, speaker, and leadership coach, there is a significant difference between cooperation and collaboration.  Cooperation is working together agreeably.  Everybody sits down, and they’re agreeable.  Collaboration, on the other hand, is working together aggressively.  Conflict and resolution become the building blocks for innovation and improvement.  So how do we create collaborative teams?  Well, half of knowing what something is, is knowing what its not!

In his book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Peter Lencioni tells us that organizations fail to achieve teamwork because they fall prey to five natural, but dangerous pitfalls.

  1. Absence of Trust – Stemming from an unwillingness to be vulnerable.  A foundation for trust can only occur when teammates are willing to be open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses.

  2. Fear of Conflict – Teams lacking trust, fear unfiltered and passionate disagreement.  They resort to veiled discussion and guarded comments.

  3. Lack of Commitment – When they are afraid to air their opinions in an arena of open debate, team members rarely buy-in and commit, even when they nod and feign agreement in meetings.

  4. Avoidance of Accountability:  Accountability occurs when two things happen:

    1. We hold ourselves accountable for meeting team expectations.

    2. We are willing to call-out colleagues when their words or actions are counterproductive to the agreed upon direction of the team.

  5. Inattention to Results – Occurs when team members put their individual needs (ego, career development, recognition) or needs of their department, division, etc., before the collective goals of the team.

Hence, teamwork flourishes when team members:

  • Trust one another

  • Engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas

  • Commit to decisions and plans of action

  • Hold one another accountable for delivering on those plans

  • Focus on the achievement of collective results.

We live in a new era, one filled with challenges, the solutions to which are well beyond the capability of any one person or single entity.  Only through collaboration will we be able to move forward and not only meet those challenges, but create a world for which our children and grandchildren give us thanks!

Embrace Collaboration
Embrace the Challenge