As leaders in organizations, we are consistently striving to improve performance with an acute focus on developing and promoting team members. Throughout the process of developing a team member, we typically focus on important skills such as leadership, problem solving, and negotiation. However, one of the most essential aptitudes in order to drive a high level of performance is collaboration. As we develop our teams, do we emphasize collaboration as a key business driver? Do we provide feedback and build the finesse of collaboration throughout our teams and organizations?
Collaboration is certainly not a new approach to driving the business; however, the most successful cross-functional teams coalesce under a common goal and are willing to embrace new ways of working together. Even amidst an environment of strong individual performers, to be successful and to solve today’s complex business challenges, collaboration should be at the essence of our solution-based approach.
In reflecting upon collaboration in a business setting, I’m reminded of a recent business issue and the need for an immediate solution to accelerate performance. As the issue intensified in complexity, it became apparent that we needed to bring in cross-functional experts to arrive at the best solution. Though we have strong individual performers across the business, this was not enough. We needed to integrate various functions to drive to a solution. Thus, as we outlined the issue, we brought in experts from six separate and distinct functions of the team.
As we worked through this complex issue, key lessons emerged which further emphasized the importance of practicing collaboration:
Clearly define the challenge. Answer the question, “What does success look like?”
- Stress the importance of working collaboratively to arrive at a creative solution that addresses the issue.
- Team members should think beyond their individual efforts and be solution-oriented. Encourage new ideas and create an environment where individuals can speak openly and with transparency.
Ensure the goal is clear and at the focal point of discussion.
- At times it can be challenging to remain focused on the overarching goal within an organization. When dealing with complex, or multiform issues, we can remove focus from the solution. Remaining disciplined and focused is key.
- Leaders often see the issue from a perspective of “30,000 feet” and can guide the group to remain focused on the key issue.
- Identify the project leader to ensure the group’s work is progressing.
Data. Data. Data.
- Evaluate the data and bring forward insights and potential actions. Share the data with the team and garner different points of view.
- Leverage immediate and real time data and be willing to quickly pivot and make adjustments based on findings.
- Flexibility and open-mindedness is key.
- Discuss the path forward openly and evaluate the pros and cons of proceeding in a particular direction.
- Utilize the data and align on next steps to solve the challenge and move towards execution.
Share learnings and results.
- Keep the team informed on progress, in real-time. Share the methods and results.
- Be open and willing to adjust the strategy.
- Apply key learnings to current, as well as future, challenges.
- Share learnings broadly throughout the organization so others can apply the approach to similar challenges within the business.
After working through the challenge collaboratively, we were able to resolve the issue. This resulted in an acceleration of the business – exceeding expectations. Though we have strong individual performers, our overall success was dependent on the group’s ability to remain focused on the overarching challenge and communicate openly and with a sense of urgency.
A leader is only as successful as his or her team’s ability to work collaboratively to generate creative solutions and apply these solutions cross-functionally. When we encourage our teams to work together toward a common goal, we are ensuring the growth of the business and our people.
*Walmart Team Leader – Pfizer
*Title and company of the author reflect their position at the time article was written.
The opinions expressed here by guest bloggers are their own, not necessarily those of Stout Executive Search.