One of the most interesting sessions at the IABC World Conference held in Montreal last week was by Carol Kinsey Goman Ph.D., who is an author and executive coach that focuses on collaborative leadership. Her informative and entertaining session looked at how communication powers effective collaboration.
To a standing-room-only crowd, Goman explained how collaboration is replacing the old ‘command and control’ leadership models. She described how today’s successful leaders see their team members as valued contributors and how they support learning and professional development.
attract, maintain and engage great people?
do more with less?
“The answer today,” Goman explained, “is collaboration. Our greatest challenge is not delivering the work…it’s about getting everyone to work together.”
She provided examples of how organizations are moving to collaborative frameworks. Companies are doing away with the silo mentality by unifying goals. They are bringing in new perspectives by implementing cross functional teams and engaging outside experts. For example, she said, chemical problems at GE are almost never solved by a chemist. A group of engineers from eight different airlines conceived the Bowing 777 to solve their common challenges.
Collaboration drives transparency, Goman said. Some organizations have dispensed with role-based job titles to promote shared responsibility. They regularly discuss cash flow. There is no secrecy around salaries. The idea is to ensure everyone understands how they, as an individual, are making a difference and feels as though he or she has a stake in the success of the company.
“It’s important to align rewards and recognition for collaboration to really work. Many companies say they want more collaboration, but they don’t reward it,” Goman stated.
The number one skill for effective collaborative leadership is empathetic listening. “A leader should understand other people’s feelings and perspective,” said Goman. “The goal is not to provide a solution, but just to be fully present and to ask questions only to clarify.”
To illustrate the concept Goman shared this video:
She followed this up with an exercise. The crowd paired off and each took a turn telling a story. But instead of saying words, they S-P-E-L-L-E-D them out. For me, this clearly demonstrated my own tendency to race to a solution. While my partner was spelling, my mind was trying to see where she was going with the story and trying to guess how it would end so that I could respond.
Try it yourself, and let me know what you learn in the comments below.
Why don’t people collaborate more?
Goman spent a few minutes explaining why people don’t collaborate. If someone doesn’t understand the benefits of collaboration, he or she will often avoid it. Maybe they feel they don’t have time, and it’s faster and more efficient to do the work or make the decisions themselves.
Alternatively, some leaders think they are collaborating, but what they are actually doing is cooperating. Being helpful and responsive is creating beneficial and positive relationships within an organization, but it’s not collaboration. “Cooperation is part of collaboration,” explained Goman. “But collaboration means more than just responding. It’s means extending the activity by adding new information and insight.”
Humans like to share; we are hardwired to do so. “But, we also have an instinct to hoard when we perceive threat,” said Goman. Team members will hoard information and ideas if they think that they, their project or team is at risk.
“These are training issues. Collaboration techniques and practices can be taught. The important thing to remember is that none of us is smarter than all of us.”