Collaboration is something we all strive for because it is essential to better business outcomes. An aligned team that is working in harmony is always going to produce better work than what one person can achieve alone. So if we know collaboration works, surely it should be intrinsic to our work day.
Unfortunately, we’re so used to setting KPIs or allocating bonuses based on individual performance – it’s almost like we’ve been conditioned to not collaborate. So how do we get out of this individual mindset and build a truly collaborative enterprise?
I believe there are four pillars we must have in order to succeed:
When we discover what inspires and energises us, we tend to share more. And in the process of sharing, we attract people towards us which in turn invites collaboration.
But inspiration can only happen if the brain is relaxed (for example we now know that the brain of inspirational leaders are able to access alpha brainwaves more often than regular people and this can only happen if they are relaxed).
Some people get very upset if they think people are stealing their ideas or taking credit for their work which makes them stressed. If you are scared, competitive or overly emotional, you're going to be competing rather than collaborating. We need to let go of our competitive mindset in order to relax and let inspiration flow.
The second pillar of a collaborative enterprise is generosity. If you’re not being generous in terms of resources, knowledge, or time, people are not going to want to work with you.
Think of collaboration like a piggy bank: Every time you do something good for someone like share information or help them with a project, put a coin in your piggy bank. When you want something in return (like help on your own project), you must have money in the bank in order to withdraw.
It could be as simple as inviting someone for a coffee or stopping what you’re doing, turn around and say, "How can I help you?". If you are always focusing on your own work or that bonus you may get and you ignore everybody around you, you’re not creating an environment to collaborate.
Communication may seem like an obvious one but what I’m talking about here is proper listening. Sometimes we think we are listening but we’re really thinking about something else or what we’re going to say next. We also make assumptions and create prejudices in our heads and that can interfere with the way we communicate and collaborate with others.
For collaboration to flourish we need the courage to say what needs to be said. This of course has to be said in the right manner so it doesn't hurt or offend people, but not saying things that are creating tension, or not naming the elephant in the room is not doing us any favours.
I think a lot of people are afraid of what people may think of us if we bring issues to light or speak up. But if you think about an elite team that goes to the Olympics, if they are not synchronised, if they don't communicate with each other, if they don't really express their emotions and address any underlying issues, they are not going to win.
These teams have to be a perfect 'collaboration machine' in order for them perform at their best!
The difficult thing is these skills are not innate - they are skills that need to be learned. But by keeping these four pillars in mind, you are well on your way to creating a collaborative culture within your organisation.