Smart leaders know the power of collaboration

10th Nov 2017
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Power of collaboration

I can't help but think about the power of collaboration, every time I see people acting selfish at work. Some people are driven by their own self-importance. They feel that if they collaborate with people, it takes away credit from their work. They don't understand that collaboration is what produces a win in today's world, no matter how good you are at what you do.

The ones who are more enlightened have figured out that it doesn’t make any sense to go on by yourself. The “each man for himself” mentality might feel protective and rewarding, but somehow never works out in the long run. There is one poignant story that reminds me of how a lack of collaboration irreparably hurt the company I was working for.

About 20 years ago, I was working for a global advertising agency that was about to lose one of its most prestigious global accounts. Naturally the client asked for a pitch. The head of the global account tried to bolster the best resources in our New York office, where the client was based. Unfortunately, the head of our New York office hated the Global Account Head and tried to starve the pitch of the required resources. The New York office head knew that if our company lost the pitch, the Global Account Head would be sacked, which is exactly what he wanted, since they were sworn enemies. The few that worked on the pitch worked as hard as they could. But being sabotaged for the right resources, our company lost the pitch. The Global Account Head predictably got sacked. The New York Office head had won an important personal victory by sacrificing the company. Hundreds of people who worked on this client across Europe and Asia were sacked since the company could no longer afford to have them - just so that two senior global managers could feed off their massive egos in what was easily a very personal war. I somehow can't help blaming our Global CEO for not taking charge and whipping the two adversaries into collaborating in the interest of the company. By not taking any action, the Global CEO demonstrated a key weakness in his leadership.

There are two morals to this story:

  • Personal agendas never help the company agenda
  • Sometimes the desire for personal revenge can hurt your company

Why are people wary of collaboration?

There could be many reasons but certainly one of them is 'over-inflated' egos. When you think you are more important than everyone else and you are better than them, you tend to leave people out of important tasks.

Some people feel threatened by collaboration. They obviously feel that if they work with others, credit will be taken away from them. But that has never been true. This mindset actually demonstrates that the person who is not willing to collaborate is insecure. Because when a company wins, everyone wins. Unfortunately in some company cultures everyone wants to be star. This narcissistic mindset is endemic of many corporate cultures today. This attitude can pose a dangerous threat to your business and career if you are unwilling to work with others in a productive way. It can also pose a threat to your company.

Collaboration isn’t about giving up your individuality. Its quite the opposite. It isabout realizing your potential. It’s about bringing your many gifts to the table and sharing them in pursuit of a common goal. It’s about bringing your ideas, your passion, your mind, heart, and soul to your leadership and culture.

Why collaborate?

Collaboration is taking over the workplace. As businesses become increasingly global and cross-functional, silos are breaking down, connectivity is increasing, and teamwork is seen as a key to organizational success. Today's workforce is more collaborative than ever. In fact, the time that managers and employees spend collaborating has increased by at least 50 percent over the past two decades, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Seamless team collaboration isn't only key to increasing your organization's productivity, but critical to your employee's happiness. An Ernst and Young report has shown that " a work environment that doesn't encourage teamwork is one of the top 5 reasons why people quit their jobs.

As the HBR article The Collaboration Imperative says " Countless efforts by companies to work together to tackle the most complex challenges facing our world today—including climate change, resource depletion, and ecosystem loss—have failed because of competitive self-interest, a lack of a fully shared purpose, and a shortage of trust. In other words collaboration is taking over the workplace."

There seems little doubt that the smart leaders of today will find collaboration a winning formula to success.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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