ENGAGE SERIES: Collaborate - You


This is the first in a series about how to engage your team. In this first round of three videos, we're going to look at how collaboration impacts engagement. Bear in mind that if you don’t value collaboration, everyone will be doing their own thing and disagreeing on priorities. Where you have a diversity of priorities you have inefficiency. If you are in an organisation where there are silos you will have disruption, low productivity and probably a high degree of frustration and politics.

Collaboration is not an end in its own right, it is merely the pathway to getting very clear on priorities, gaining alignment and agreement with a diverse group of people.

If we get this right, we literally unlock the latent potential of the team. We can also create competitive advantage through a learning, ‘big-brain’ organisation. The days of having one person doing all the thinking are long over. The market is moving way too fast for that.

If we don't achieve a collaborative environment, then even great people become siloed and frustrated. They can be working hard with the right motivation and yet still not get the right level of progress.

The simple principle here is that many is better than one. As a leader, our mindset needs to shift to inclusion, transparency, and authenticity. We know we get the culture we deserve, and often it is a reflection of ourselves. Therefore, it all starts with us; the leader. If you want to achieve a lot then one busy bee is no good to anyone, but a functioning hive is effective.

My undergraduate degree was in Zoology, yes really. While studying I was surprised to learn about the Portuguese Man o’War (Physalia physalis) or the Blue Bottle as it’s sometimes known. It looks very much like a jellyfish and yet it's not a jellyfish. Despite its appearance, the Portuguese Man o' War differs from single organisms like jellyfish as they are siphonophores, a colonial organism made up of many specialized, though genetically distinct, parts called zooids. These ‘zooids’ are attached to one another and are physiologically integrated to such an extent that they cannot survive independently. The assemblage of zooids works together to function as an individual animal. In my view this is the ultimate expression of community; totally dependent, only functional as a cohesive whole. Imagine if our organisations were a bit more like that? How well would we function with that level of commitment, purpose and engagement? As Ken Blanchard opined "None of us is as smart as all of us."

So how can we bring some practical steps to bear on opening up to collaboration? Let's start with something super simple like bringing the decision making process to the group. Learn to listen and build trust, create a safe environment. Do it today, take the call to the team. It could be as easy as asking ‘what do you think’, rather than providing your quick answer. Don’t speak first, stop to listen, learn and hear other inputs and learn to speak last. You may well be surprised by just how effective you can become.

So, take the time to consider the value of collaboration. If you want your organisation to be a ‘Blue Bottle’ it starts with you.

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