Leadership Collaboration

Having spoken last time about empowerment, and the importance of impact, meaning and self-determination, I will now focus on collaboration, one the other two elements of leadership effectiveness. The words such as business alliancing, partnering and joint ventures are familiar elements across businesses, but not often enough is the value of such action realised within businesses at the individual level. Collaboration is a significant element of leadership provided that the framework is effectively established. This is to say that provided there is a mutual purpose with a common understanding there is the framework for relationship building. We all know that advocacy is the best form of marketing, so to have a collaborative relationship building process in place where there is mutual trust and information sharing can only benefit the business. You might say, ‘but they are my competitors’ why would I develop my leaders through collaborating with my competitors. Think not of competitors but of complementary businesses. If the complementary business model was not successful there would not be the extent of shopping centres that we are now seeing. What has this to do with leadership? External influences such as publically stated political commitments, funding deadlines compliance requirements, can constrain effective collaboration processes. Effective leadership processes foster information sharing, contribute to the development of a common understanding and support active collaboration while establishing common meanings and language. Thus a common ground on which to devise solutions from knowledge distributed among many staff members in the organisations is developed while explicit nowhere in individual established organisational routines. This is most evident in the construction industry where there are consulting designers, civil and structural engineers and contractors, contract administrators, and those organisations monitoring compliance. They collectively collaborate to achieve a mutual purpose. Provided each party to the collaborative process has a clear understanding of their role and the expectations of each other and what to do and how to act if this is violated, then the framework for achieving business outcomes greater than an individual company can be achieved. This process can be achieved both at a corporate level and individual staffing level.  Agreeing on objectives including roles, responsibilities and agenda helps to establish and make transparent the structure and purpose of collaborative processes. In managing the complexity of such ventures it is critical to establish these early in the relationship formation, as lack of clarity in role, purpose and agenda can create a power, disempowerment inequity and provides a basis to cope with the external complexity and tune into your own businesses strengths and direction. Collaborating to incorporate external capabilities and knowledge can increase your business’ adaptability because it amplifies the significant differences and increases the number of transforming exchanges, through a higher interaction with people and organisations external to your internal thinking and focus. To do this however requires the leaders to be flexible and adaptable. This will be the focus of the next column.