The Successful Collaborator

The Successful Collaborator

Each and every day managers and leaders are told, directed and implored to collaborate with their peers, cross functional peers, internal customers, cross functional organizations, and just about every one under the corporate roof! It is an old mantra, it is a new mantra and it won’t go away.

Being able to cross functionally collaborate seems to have become the make or break skill set for people’s careers in this new millennium. Why then are most people not very good at it and need to be told time and time again that they have to master this skill to be successful?

Our notion is that collaboration for many of us is an un-natural act that involves among other things, listening more, going slower, putting aside self-interest to some degree and trusting other people’s intentions. Now that’s a tall task. None of us really like the aforementioned behaviors that are the antithesis to our “I’m in a hurry and here’s what my organization needs to be successful” world we live and work in.

Collaboration requires us to wear many different “hats” none of which are called “driver”— although being a driver comes in handy once you’ve done all the pre-work. The pre-work involves wearing the hats of facilitator, business partner and influencer, meeting after meeting moving the process forward and taking almost everybody with you on this journey.

We have identified below the roles a good collaborator must play in order to have any chance of being successful. Keep in mind that while there is a general progression from facilitator to business partner to influencer this is not intended to be done in a strictly linear fashion.

Different meetings, people and circumstances require the good collaborator to be agile and pick the right behaviors and the right time. The mistake most people make is they jump right into selling and telling and rarely if ever utilize the “facilitator”, “business partner” or “influencer” behaviors. The effect this has on people is that they feel like they are being sold to and closed on.

As you go through this list, challenge yourself with these questions:

  1. Do I demonstrate any of these collaboration behaviors on a consistent basis?
  2. Which of the 3 collaboration roles identified could I utilize more effectively in a meeting that I currently lead or attend?
  3. In what relationships could I implement more of these behaviors as a way of bringing about more collaboration?

Stage #1 – Facilitator

  • Generates sharing of ideas.
  • Facilitates the sharing of information.
  • Acts as a clarifier of communications.
  • Checks for understanding.
  • Asks questions.
  • Proactively invites people to contribute/participate.
  • Identifies what parties have in common and where they may differ.
  • Creates a sense of safety in the room/meeting.
  • Listens to learn others point of view.

Mind-Set – Setting the table for mutual respect, trusting each other’s intentions and a level playing field.

Stage #2 – Business partner

  • Models putting self in other people’s shoes.
  • Goes out of his way to understand his business partner’s needs and interests.
  • Does not dismiss or diminish his business partner’s needs or desired outcome.
  • Uses “partner language” “we, together, partners, etc.”
  • Demonstrates a willingness to make all parties successful.
  • Begins to facilitate and generate “both gain” solutions”.

Mind – Set – Investing in each other’s success.

Stage #3 – Influencer

  • Insures that all data and information has been shared.
  • Calls for interpretation of data presented.
  • Pushes group to generate “both gain” solutions.
  • Calls on content experts to influence possible decisions.
  • Calls on “group know-how” to come up with a solution in the best interest of the company.
  • Generates lessons learned from previous projects.
  • Blocks any attempts at dismissing perspectives, continuous convincing or pointing out why others are wrong.

Mind-Set – Drive the team towards a “both gain” solution and maintain a partner attitude without adversarial relationships forming.

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