Collaboration: It's easy, right?

Aug 01, 2016


Nancy Fredericks

Nancy Fredericks pens Women Lead Change's "Mindful Mondays" column, appearing the second Monday of every month. Fredericks is a preeminent Business Executive Strategist, Author and Thought Leader. Corporations like Johnson & Johnson, PepsiCo, Adobe, Allergan and Transamerica have retained her to optimize individual and organizational performance. You can find her at www.CareerStretchZone.com. The views of Nancy Frederick's blogs represent her own and not necessarily the views of Women Lead Change.

Today’s competitive business landscape demands collaboration of the highest order to generate better thinking as well as achieve better results. Collaboration is easy to say, harder to incorporate, and tough to pull off.

It requires the right people coming together with the right attitude and technical expertise, skill sets, and cooperative behavior to deliver innovative and sustainable solutions. It demands winning as a group rather than winning as an individual.

What’s the barrier to successful collaboration? You are—and the company structure you work within. And this requires a seismic mindset shift.

First, the corporate hierarchical is antithetical to collaboration. Aren’t you expending a lot of time and effort on corporate projects far broader in nature than ever before? And yet, don’t you report to one boss whose loyalties more typically are entrenched in one division?

Collaborative projects are, in fact, your company’s way of asking you to make decisions for the greater good of the organization while still reporting to one boss who is instrumental to your career success.

Today instead of being responsible to one authority—your boss—you now have unofficial dotted line responsibility to many through your collaborative endeavors—often across divisional borders.

This broader reporting structure turns your allegiance response upside down. And more often than not, these dueling expectations have you stretched beyond your capacity to give another nanosecond of time or effort.

“Should I meet the deadline on the collaboration project or my boss’s must do’s?” is the cry I hear from many of my clients.

The reality is through your collaborative projects you are answerable to many. You must transcend self-interest (even that of your boss and division), remain a loyal partner to your boss while demonstrating a commitment to the corporation as a whole. Such a dramatic shift should be a massive wake-up call for you. It forces you to completely transform how you manage your time and your relationships!

Second, the culture of the individual hero contributor is long gone.Instead of gaining career advancement through your individual contributions now you are working with executives from multiple levels as an expert equal crossing divisional, and cultural borders to produce sustainable bottom-line results.

In collaboration, you are assessed on the quality of the project outcome—not your individual effort. You see, your impact is determined both by your expertise as well as your ability to move the project forward on-time and under budget through integrating the ideas, views, and talents of a disparate group of employees.

Good collaborators know how to play in the gray space which is the conflict-inducing gaps between the knowledge you bring to the table and that of your co-collaborators. Such an environment challenges you to get out of the minutia of your expertise to combine your conceptual/strategic thinking with others in an open and flexible manner.

Collaboration demands a team where together you are comfortable with being uncomfortable. As you become more at ease in this new unchartered, less delineated environment, your collaboration efforts are easy-peasy! And remember, this competency—when performed well—is the trait which will separate you from the rest of the crowd.