In the Harry Potter series, Dementors roamed the earth attempting to suck the soul out of unsuspecting victims. In our world, there are equally insidious forces at play that seek to suck the life from our organizations. Left unguarded, one of the victims will be collaboration.
Collaboration is not a new idea. However, as we’ve consciously tried to get better at collaboration at Chick-fil-A, the more I’ve realized – it is not the norm. Also, upon serious reflection, I’ve realized I’ve often been guilty of stifling collaboration even while singing its praises and championing its cause.
What do leaders do to unwittingly kill collaboration?
Fail to see the big picture – Many things in an organization are connected. If we don’t pull up to a sufficient altitude, we can miss the obvious. Once we see the overarching themes, patterns and interconnectivity, we’ll be more willing to seek out others and their ideas.
Not allowing enough time to collaborate – The truth about collaboration is it requires time. If I don’t allow enough time in a project plan to meet with others, to discuss options and think creatively, it won’t usually happen. What I’ve discovered over the years is the additional time is almost always worth the investment. Collaboration adds HUGE value.
Work in your functional silo – Another manifestation of the two previous conditions is a natural tendency to work in our own area. Let’s face it; people in other functions and disciplines are different. They take us out of our comfort zone. Therefore, there is a gravitational pull toward your own area. We’ve got to fight this if we truly value collaboration.
Assume you know it all – As much as we don’t want to admit it, sometimes we don’t collaborate because we don’t think we need to. Arrogance and hubris are deadly – they kill more than collaboration – they ultimately kill organizations.
Keep your ideas to yourself – In many organizations, competition has run amuck. In these instances, it is literally survival of the fittest and every man for himself. Clearly, competition is not bad, but left unchecked, it can be deadly. Not only will you squelch collaboration, trust will not take root in this type environment.
So what do you do with this? I have three suggestions…
Decide what you believe about collaboration. Is it a nice idea, good to have if possible, or do you see it as one of the keys to taking your organization to the next level? Is it integral to your competitive advantage and ultimate success or just a time-consuming feel good strategy? Your beliefs drive your behavior.
Do a collaboration audit. This doesn’t have to be formal or fancy. You don’t even need to hire a consultant. You can begin by looking for the signs mentioned above. Are you killing collaboration? Do you see collaboration on a regular basis or not? Talk to the people in your organization. Do they see collaboration as essential or extra-curricular?
Respond based on what you find. If you see like what you see, affirm it – if you don’t, change it. You are the leader.[GLS_Shield]