"If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself" – Henry Ford
Whether included in a job description as a desired skill or mentioned on a company’s website as part of its values or mission statement, it won’t take long before you come across the word ‘collaboration’.
Research on the subject tells us that a collaborative organisational culture is directly linked to performance. There are many different interpretations of what we mean by collaboration, so let’s start with the over-arching cultural aspect.
Collaboration at the top level is all about business partnering. Smart business leaders know that without the support of operational functions such as HR, Finance, Marketing and IT, their organisations would be doomed. Yet there still often remains an issue of credibility and the value that support functions bring can often get overlooked.
While it is increasingly important in today’s business world for each department to demonstrate its worth, in order to do this they also need to be given the opportunity to be involved in the stragtegic decsions making process. Greater cross-functional collaboration brings more diversity of thought, fresh ideas and the learning process is enhanced for everyone.
Culture of feedback
So what can we do as individuals to become more collaborative? We’re all expected to work in harmony with our peers, but as we know only too well, a lot depends on the character traits of each individual and the leadership style of management.
One of the key elements to improving collaboration has to be communication and having a culture of feedback. This fosters openness and honesty – people are far more likely to collaborate in such an environment where each individual’s ideas are valued. As any successful leader will tell you, receiving constructive criticism is more important than dishing it out. It pays to be open to advice from anyone, regardless of that person’s position on the org chart.
Making people feel valued
Collaboration works best when individuals feel valued. Giving credit, whether it’s to someone in your team or from another department, is how you build strong relationships and boost productivity. As Professor Cary Cooper, one of the UK’s leading workplace stress experts says, “We need managers who praise and reward rather than finding fault. This is essential if we want to safeguard the wellbeing of our workforce.”
Whether you’re a business leader, middle manager or junior employee, think about how you can be more collaborative individually and as teams. What are your working relationships like with people in other departments? Do you have a culture of feedback and praise? Does your team openly share ideas among each other?
The business wisdom from one of the great industrialists should leave you in no doubt as to the power of collaboration.
Are you interested in how teachers and parents can encourage collaboration in children? Visit the Skills 21 website to read our "a life long skill" article