The real meaning of collaboration for leaders

I did a session yesterday, for an amazing client. One of the big topics was collaboration. Why, because collaboration is associated with great teamwork and alignment. Absolutely. But it’s a broad term and one that can be hard to really define or to nail in practice. 

What is important when you start to think about collaboration are things like input and engagement, communication consistency, and a forward focus. Where people are all on the same journey, heading in the same direction. As well as those things, it is about inclusive decision making, and psychological safety. 

If you take it to the next level, and on a personal note – collaboration is a key element of resilience. It is one of the six area that helps you be more resilient in life, and it helps you face challenges. Not because you can face them on your own, but because others are walking beside you and you have a network of hoomanz around you to support you through your toughest days. 

Collaboration is a big thing, at work and at home. Embrace it as a leader and as a hooman. Here’s how to do that. 

1. Slow down to speed up 

The biggest challenge for leaders who want to be more collaborative, is that it takes some time. A collaborative decision is not a quick decision. A collaborative process generally doesn’t happen quickly. A collaborative change can be a slow burn.  

But it is worth it. 

The time taken to engage all team members in the process will pay dividends. It will ensure that everyone has a say, and that everyone cares about the outcomes, and will buy in when the time comes. The team will be more supportive, if they have been part of the decision-making process. 

And that is the key thing with collaboration. The more you collaborate at the front end, and that might be slow, the better and the quicker the back-end process is. The easier it is to make the change, implement the process, because it has been workshopped.  

2. Build the skills first 

Like most of the big concepts of leadership, collaboration is all encompassing. If you asked a leader to define it, they might talk about communication, teamwork, and working together. If you asked a leader how to do it, they might talk about having meetings or asking for input. 

And these are all relevant answers to those questions. It is a bit deeper than that, though. Collaboration starts in the mind. It starts as a mindset, and a willingness to be collaborative. To be open to ideas and input. That can be tough, and I can talk you through how to have that mindset if you would like to reach out. If having a collaborative leadership style is not your thang, this might be a big step. If you are already there, and you have the right mindset, then it is about skills building. 

Collaboration requires facilitation – a skill a lot of leaders struggle with this, as it is about asking not telling. And it requires listening. It requires changing your mind when others have great ideas. Aka flexibility. And adaptability. In fact, these skills probably come before collaboration, as they are a requirement of a leader who is collaborative.  

The collaboration process is about starting with a problem, brainstorming solutions, deciding on a way forward, implementing the decision or idea, then circling back to make sure it worked. Sounds simple, right! 

3. Be a good leader and be a good human 

Some leaders have all good intentions. They are keen to collaborate. They are keen to engage, they are keen to be great leaders. Until the time comes, until the moment appears, until the decision shows up.  

Then it becomes; let’s just get this done and we can collaborate next time… 

Which is a little incongruent – that is saying one thing, then doing another. And team members see that.  

Collaboration is all about being a good leader and a good human. Think of all the important leadership skills, like empathy (understanding other’s views). Engagement (asking for input). Listening (to what is being offered, and why). The list goes on. And think of how much your team will appreciate you and your effort, when you show up like this (if you don’t already). 

There is one additional element to being a good leader, who is a good human, who is collaborative; and that is vulnerability. Without vulnerability, collaboration does not exist. What is vulnerability, you might ask. Sharing how you feel, sharing that you need help, sharing that you are open to ideas. Are all ways to demonstrate vulnerability. Aka, that you don’t have all the answers, and that you are struggling, or that you need help. 

And you might even have to admit you are wrong… oh no… yes, that is ok, to say. The higher the vulnerability, the higher the collaboration, in my experience.  

In summary, collaboration will take you some time up front, but that will be worth it. It starts with a mindset and then skills develop from there. The key skills are around facilitation, and the key leadership traits are anything that helps you be a good leader and that helps you demonstrate vulnerability (at the right times). 

It will take some effort, but the effort is well and truly worth it! 

And please click the image below if you’d like to chat about what leadership means to you.

If you would like to learn more about Anton or The Guinea Group, please click hereto book into Anton’s calendar, to:

UPGRADE your Mindset
UPSKILL your Leadership
UPLIFT your Teams

About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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