Are You A Chief Collaborator?

August 22, 2014 — 5 Comments

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

~ Margaret Mead


You understand that your organization is a system of relationships and that those relationships are the glue that holds the organization together. Anyone can be collaborative leader — no matter what your role or position may be. As a collaborative leader, you have the opportunity to create cohesive communities, whether your teams are co-located or geographically dispersed across the globe.    

If you consistently work hard to ensure your organization operates within a collaborative context, you may feel overwhelmed with the complexity of the system – while at the same time feeling excited and proud of what your teams are accomplishing as they work together across boundaries and borders. As you continue to negotiate and navigate through your global environment, it is always in your best interest to remember some fundamental truths:

1.  You Are Not In Control.

You never have been and you never will be. It doesn’t matter who you are. You cannot control other people’s actions or reactions in any situation. You can’t mandate discretionary effort or force people to be engaged. People might be compliant, but they only give their discretionary effort to the things that are important to them. According to John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, “You cannot create collaboration if you think leadership is about control.”  Making the shift from a “command and control” to a “collaborative” mindset is not easy, but it is crucial to creating a collaborative workplace.

2.  You Do Not Have All The Answers. 

Critical information is held across the organization – often in very specific stovepipes. Learn to ask really good questions and actively listen to the responses you receive. A good question that is actively engaged is worth a lot more than self-knowledge because it opens up possibilities for creative new ideas and solutions… not to mention building trust and motivation across your teams.

3.   Engaged People Bring Value.

Through involvement, your teams will develop a deeper understanding and commitment to solving real issues, as well as an increased dedication to achieving organizational goals. As a result, they are more likely to collaborate and create more solution-oriented output in partnership with their teammates. Inviting people to participate in decision-making creates ownership and builds leadership capacity for the future – while at the same time increasing collaboration and motivation levels. When people know their contributions matter (and they know they have been heard) they will openly collaborate because respect and trust are byproducts of open, honest communication.

4.  Technology Creates Opportunity.

Leveraged correctly, technology has the capacity to facilitate communication across boundaries & borders.  Despite common stovepipe thinking, the organization benefits when information is openly shared. People can do their jobs better when they have easy access to the information they need. It suddenly becomes possible to create productive partnerships across the global enterprise – evolving competitive advantage toward collaborative advantage.

5.  Diversity Is The Foundation Of Innovation.  

When diverse perspectives are combined from around the world, discussions are richer, more robust and more relevant – we find better solutions as a collaborative unit than we do as divided individuals. Conflict and creative disagreement, when focused on issues (not people), can function as an incubator to create innovative new ideas, approaches and solutions.

6.  Leveraging The Entire Network Is A Sustainable Advantage.

In hierarchical organizations, the flow of information and decisions tends to be linear.  Although these organizations have advantages in terms of efficiency, there is a huge cost of lost opportunity in not having ready access to critical resources. Often innovation and creative solutions emerge as a result of the informal collaborations that occur between individuals with different perspectives that reside across diverse functions and cultures.

7.   Go Slow In Order To Go Fast.

Taking time to plan in the beginning will increase your likelihood of success.  It can be challenging to take the time to bring everyone onboard at the front end of the process. However, if you don’t, there’s a significant price to pay – it’s costly and demotivating if everyone is not on the same page and committed to the collaborative process up front. Take care in the beginning and the end will take care of itself.

8.  The Health Of The Whole And The Health Of The Parts Are Interdependent.

The organization does not make the person – the person makes the organization. Above all, value your people. Without them you do not have an organization… no one to collaborate with. The well-being of an organization is dependent on the well-being of its members.

In order to be a collaborative leader, it’s important that you continuously stress team performance. It is always a good idea to encourage workers to perform at their personal best, however they should also be made to feel as if they are part of something greater than themselves. They need to realize that they are part of a team and they will ultimately be judged according to how well they will be able to perform as team players.

What Will You Do To Ensure You Are Propagating Collaboration In Your Organization?

Please engage the discussion and let us know how you will enable successful collaboration in your organization. Do you need an expert to help you leverage global collaboration in your organization? Contact me at or by visiting our website at Check back next week for the next installment of Leadership Across Boundaries and Borders.


Posts Twitter Facebook

Sheri is The Global Coach, founder of Luminosity Global Consulting Group, Global Executive Coach, Speaker, Writer and Global Business and Cultural Expert.

5 responses to Are You A Chief Collaborator?

  1. Hi again Sheri –

    As a major collaborator (I really don’t like to work alone much any more) I find that in organizations with a hierarchical structure, those that do not easily work collaboratively really do not understand the process. Often they are threatened by it because it is so dynamic and the information comes from many points on the compass, not just one.

    When I’m working on collaborative projects, I consciously communicate the benefits experienced by me and my teammates with our supervisors. I also continually share the fact that the final product grew “out of” the collaborative process and was influenced by everyone’s input.

    One problem I think, especially in academia, is that administrators do not know how to award “credit” for collaborative projects. There is not yet an evaluation category for collaboration although many university mission/vision statements claim to want more collaborative activity to take place. For example, if this article is not “my” article how does my supervisor give me credit for the publication? If there were 3 people working on the project does everyone get full credit? Or each person only 1/3 credit?

    Perhaps you have some examples from business – when a collaborative project is successful, does everyone get a bonus, promotion, new project?

    I’m enjoying this series of articles, thank you,


  2. Yes. You have said it.. But I find a different type of concern. When I joined the company I found it needed lot of changes and when attempted there were resistance and people started to polarise in group. the larger picture of the company was blurred by narrow personal aspects and with a agenda.

    Buying In is a tricky aspect and established long timers will resist change fearing their loosing grip or informal control.
    How to cope up and address this.

    • Your observations and concerns are very real and very common – the issue comes down to change management and how leadership in the organization handles the situation. Obviously there are positive tactics to be taken initially – point out how the change will benefit, the person, team and organization… demonstrate how things will improve with the change… include your heaviest resisters in the change… etc. Above all, it has to be made VERY clear that collaboration is expected, and resistance and negative talk are not. Those who want to succeed in their work will realize very quickly they need to shift their perspective to one of collaboration to get things done effectively and efficiently. However, for those who continue to resist a collaborative culture and refuse to focus in the right place… there must be serious consequences. Unfortunately, often human nature responds better to the stick than the carrot – Harsh, but realistic view…

      • Your observation is right. The most oft repeated term is change management and the difficult part is to change. Even if one member of the group refuses to change the real change will not happen. I too subscribe to the fact stick with carrot works. People only need more carrots are not interested in farming the carrots. That is the real challenge. Believe in change … be a part of the change… enjoy the change….

  3. I’m amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both equally
    educative and engaging, and let me tell you, you have hit
    the nail on the head. The issue is something not
    enough folks are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I came across this during my hunt for something regarding this.

Leave a Reply

Text formatting is available via select HTML. <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>