Why We Need to Look at Collaboration Through a New Lens
Sometimes a change of perspective is a breath of fresh air about an issue.
Take collaboration in the workplace.
It is often considered an employee issue, and the focus is on finding ways for workers to share and work better as teams.
In reality, it is a leadership issue.
Workers are keen observers of the corporate culture. If they see their top managers engaged in a fierce battle for “me first,” there is little likelihood that they will fall into a collaborative work style. That’s because instinctively, they know it’s not real. It’s a human relations scam.
They know that what it really takes to get to the top is ruthless individualism and the consideration of self above others. So they will play the game, but they will never fully commit, unless they can see some evidence that such methods of working are actually appreciated and applauded at the top corporate level.
Does that mean that if a corporate leader sincerely believes in collaboration that it will happen?
No, it does not. Instead, it means that there is a better chance it will happen if the top leadership is focused on merits of collaboration as a work system.
But a leader alone cannot change a culture.
We have all seen a new leader with great ideas to move the company forward enter an organization and gradually be extinguished by multiple silent passive aggressive knife wounds to his or her back.
No matter how committed the leader is to change, it will not happen until all the employees who will be impacted by that change commit to it from the beginning.
So the new leader has to come in and infiltrate the organization to recognize the hidden leaders, the workers who always have more power than the others, and bring them on board from the start. They have to be consulted, cajoled, trained and involved from day one if true change of culture is going to happen.
Help the workers to envision a better organization and to clearly see the benefits of collaboration so they can introduce it to their co-workers as something they believe will make the workplace better. A vision shared in this way, by top leaders as well as underground leaders, will have the most impact.
Use online training tools such as SkyPrep to create informative training on why collaboration is so important in your workplace culture.
The end result of working collaboratively still comes down to relationships. It’s neither an up nor down thing exclusively. It takes time for coworkers to build good relationships, to appreciate each other’s skills and traits, and to see the benefits of bonding.
There’s another aspect of collaborative workplaces as well. Sometimes in the vision to create them, the element of trust is forgotten. Coworkers who don’t trust each other will never truly collaborate, they will only go through the motions to try to convince others they are onboard.
Trust in this case means trust that the coworker has the skills and expertise to hold up their share of the teamwork, and trust in the case that they believe their coworker will not claim their ideas and display them as their own.
Collaboration requires generosity of spirit and that is not necessarily present in each worker. Some people come into your organization highly skilled but with the loner mentality. They aren’t convinced that there are any benefits to the new found fascination with collaboration. They just won’t play by the rules.
That does not mean that such an employee’s mind and attitude can’t be changed. It is just an acknowledgement that it will be harder to bring some people on board than others. The key in this case is building up that spirit of trust and mutual respect.
If you truly want to build a collaborative workplace, these are some of the realities that need to be considered. You need to set the example from the top and build up the levels of trust. Anything less will not look like the real things, but it will just be lip service and will fall apart when you need it most.