“Competition makes us faster. Collaboration makes us better.”
I always assumed that collaboration and teamwork were the same thing. What I came to realize is that while they are common in the fact that they both involve a group of people working together to complete a shared goal, they differ in one key way; teamwork typically requires a level of authority, i.e. a manager, whereas collaboration is when the team works collectively on equal levels to come up with ideas or make decisions together to complete a goal.
While studying NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming), one of the realizations was that when we look up to people, we put ourselves down and when we look down on others, we mistakenly put ourselves above them. The goal then should be to look at everyone as equal regardless of their title, background, or accomplishments. This was a major shift that I had in my life because I was one who easily looked up to others without realizing I was putting myself down. I no longer believe that those who we deem “successful” were born with innate talent, but rather put in the deliberate practice, effort, and developed the mental strength that it took for them to get where they are. This truth was incredibly liberating, exciting and a bit scary at the same time because it meant that any one of us has the ability to achieve what we truly desire in life.
When, as leaders, we look at everyone as equal, we become more approachable and create a feeling of safety amongst our peers. Imagine how much better we can serve by removing ego and treating everyone as equal. How would you have felt if your boss had treated you as an equal when you first started your career? Would your level of commitment be enhanced? What would this have meant to your performance? If you’re striving to have an empowering environment that’s fueled by respect, it starts here. There are many other benefits to collaboration, let’s dive into what they are.
1. Peer to Peer Accountability:
Perhaps one of the most essential but difficult components of successful collaboration is peer to peer accountability. In my experience, I’ve found that the key here is for us to let our guards down, practice being open-minded, see situations from the other person’s perspective, have extreme candor, and assume there is positive intent. Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team talks about having Trust as the foundation, then moving on to Healthy Conflict, which leads to decisive Commitment, then Peer to Peer Accountability, which all build up to the best Results not just for a specific department, but the entire organization. Peer to Peer Accountability comes with a warning however; get ready to be comfortable being uncomfortable because it’s not easy but it is a game-changer.
2. Ironically Fosters Independence:
When we ingrain accountability into our culture, we foster independence because we are incentivized to take responsibility for our own actions, effort, development and attitude. How we show up matters not only for ourselves but for our team members. If we’re wanting to contribute to new ideas and effective decisions, then bringing our best selves to work is critical. Collaboration encourages us to learn and develop our own skills so that we can contribute to the conversations, brainstorming sessions, and inspire others to follow our lead.
3. Engagement Deepens:
By recognizing that everyone contributes to the success of our organization, we find ways to involve everyone in decisions, no matter how big or small. Just because we carry a certain title doesn’t mean we have the answers or should be expected to know all the answers. When everyone feels like their voice has been heard, engagement increases, regardless if we went with their idea or not. The key is to actively listen, brainstorm on what is being discussed, and use that process to make a well informed decision. When engagement increases, turnover decreases.
4. Fewer but More Productive Meetings:
Collaboration supports effective communication. When we’re holding ourselves accountable, fostering independence, and are deeply engaged in what we’re doing, having 1 hour daily meetings become less valuable and counter-productive. If we’re on the same page, have a safe environment, and are communicating effectively on a consistent basis, the need for more meetings diminishes and when it does come time to have a meeting, they are far more productive and meaningful. What would it mean to you to have fewer but more productive and less time-consuming meetings?
5. Attracts The Right People:
What do you believe is the type of culture that an “A-Player” wants to be a part of? An A-Player to me is someone that values humility, has a strong desire to grow, gets excited to see their colleague succeed, is open-minded, and leads by example. I believe that in order to have true synergy and collaboration in our businesses that it’s less about attracting top talent, and more about attracting the right people that have the right characteristics for your environment. The skill can be developed. Character can be developed as well, but it’s far more challenging and time consuming. Focus on setting up your organization in a way that your reputation attracts the right people.
6. Higher Retention Rates:
Once we establish a culture of collaboration into our organization, we set ourselves up to reduce turnover. What is your current turnover and what does that cost you per year? What would it mean to you not only financially, but in terms of stress reduction and increased performance, having your turnover cut in half or even more? Because every team member feels involved in the direction of the company, they feel like they are a part of something bigger and contributing to the vision. How many other companies do you believe operate at this level? Not many. But you can be one of the few.
7. Smoother Onboarding Process:
Collaboration sets the stage for a smooth transition for our newest team member. When they get started, there is less wasted time, more structure, and we find out quickly how well they are going to fit in with the team. A smooth onboarding process allows for the new team member to adapt quicker to processes, environment, culture, expectations, and their team. The quicker we can have them adapt, the sooner we discover what their unrealized ability is within our organization. From here, we can help road map their career which is also a major contributor to a deeper level of engagement.
8. Transparency & Trust:
With an open line of communication and peer to peer accountability, this leaves little room for any kind of lack of transparency and transparency leads to trust. Trust is the foundation of any successful organization. With the right environment and collaboration, we trust each other to make the best decisions together. We trust that if one person is falling behind for any reason, someone will be there to pick them up. We trust that we will be open and honest with each other because we know that by doing so it will lead to the best results for everyone. We trust that we will hold each other accountable knowing that that’s how we get the most out of each other.
Focus on collaboration to make yourself, your team, and your organization better!
You got this!