Leadership Article


Collaboration - Share Power and Achieve Excellence

For those of us in leadership positions with and without titles we know what we know and are confident in most of our decisions. It is usually the vehicle of our success and reward. Collaboration is a means to expand our effectiveness and ability to make smarter decisions in less time. Doesn't collaboration mean taking away our ability to be the ultimate decision maker? Doesn't it take longer to do? How can we possibly give up our means of influencing the outcomes that we want for our organization?

When you think about it, we learn from others - our parents, mentors, teachers, co-workers, etc. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us in what works with leading and managing resources. Although we consider ourselves in America to be independent thinkers and achievers, we could have never achieved the position we have alone, without support from others. We are by nature collaborative. It doesn't mean we don't want to have our way but we feel better when others we respect agree with us or point out some flaw that we didn't think of. Just because someone has the ultimate authority in their respective discipline doesn't mean they have the greatest insight into the challenges they face. In fact, the best leaders surround themselves with smart people asking for and listening to their perspectives. Consider the office of the President of the U.S. has a cabinet, whose sole function is to advise the President on their respective topics. Sometimes our own inner sense of direction is affected by our conscious or unconscious personal bias and agendas.

This is when using collaboration has the most value. When we allow others to support us and the organization with their perspective and recommendations the results are better. I suggest that the most effective method is to keep in mind how much impact the decision has on the organization.

It is inappropriate to pull a team together or research with all of your mentors to make small mundane decisions. It might be useful to select some criteria to determine when it is the best use of your resources to seek collaboration. On the other hand, it is counterproductive to give lip service to collaboration since it will undermine trust and credibility of the willingness to be open to others' input. Ultimately, we will be just fooling ourselves.

Getting some distance to obtain a new perspective on important topics is both refreshing and beneficial to our organizations. Often times as leaders, we hold the notion that we must carry everything ourselves. This approach is draining and stressful. The challenge is to detach emotionally to the outcome. Oftentimes, great leadership is accompanied by great egos. When we detach from an issue, we get a different perspective. If you were to only do this one thing, detaching, your ability to get a new perspective and have a fuller solution is improved.

Collaboration is really by definition power sharing and therein may be the sticking point. How can we share power and be in control? Control is about ego and attachment. The best leaders in the U.S. that brought about the most significant change in their respective organizations are those whose names are relatively unknown. Their impact was on and for the benefit of the business not themselves. These leaders took wavering businesses to sustainable profits that transcended their retirement. Other famous leaders, such as Lee Iacoca, helped the organization in the moment but it was dependent upon him and thus about him. The results - the recovery of Chrysler was not sustainable.

We know that our passion is what drives us. You might be asking how can you have passion without an attachment to it? That is the dichotomy. We are passionate about our mission, service, customer, or vision that we are holding for others. The idea that we know best at every choice point or have all the best solutions is a set up for the Emperor's New Suit. This is really the razor's edge - holding passion and being detached.

When we act as a steward of the organization and its culture, our decisions cannot be about us. They must be about what's best for the business. When we intentionally act from alignment with our values and mission as a leader then we know that the easiest path to excellence is leveraging the brain trust through collaboration.