You likey have a strong interest in becoming a better leader. Maybe you just scored your first management position, and you’re looking for an edge to help you climb the corporate ladder at your company. Maybe you own your own business and you want to learn a few techniques that will help you take your organization to the next level. Here is a complete guide to collaborative leadership.
Collaborative leadership shows us why collaboration is important for leaders to embrace. Here are seven steps you can take to become a collaborative leader. The truths we cover below will help you achieve your leadership goals.
What is Collaborative Leadership?
Before you can become a collaborative leader, you have to learn what collaborative leadership really is. For that, we turn to our good friends at Slack for a definition:
“Collaborative leadership is a management practice that aims to bring managers, executives, and staff out of silos to work together. In collaborative workplaces, information is shared organically and everyone takes responsibility for the whole.”
Unfortunately, traditional work environments don’t usually operate this way. Most companies employ a top-down approach to leadership, which results in a small executive group that completely controls the flow of organizational information.
Controlling all flow of organizational information has worked for decades, but it’s probably not the best leadership model anymore. Modern companies have realized the error and are making changes.
Why Collaboration is Important in Leadership?
If the top-down approach has worked for years, why change it? What advantages do collaborative leaders enjoy? A bunch, actually. But we’re going to focus on three of them: happier employees, more efficient processes, and greater innovation.
Let’s take a look at each of these advantages in greater detail:
A recent survey conducted by Gusto found that 54% of employees feel that collaboration and a sense of community at work will impact how long they choose to stay at an organization. More than half of modern workers want to collaborate at work. They won’t be happy if they can’t.
Knowing that employees need to communicate is important information as employee turnover is a common and costly problem. According to PeopleKeep, it can cost anywhere from 16% to 213% of a departing team member’s annual salary to replace them, depending on the position being vacated.
Happy employees also tend to work harder and more productively and provide better customer service. Keeping your team happy will both save your organization money and help to boost the revenue it generates. Win!
More Efficient Processes
A collaborative leadership style also boosts organization efficiency.
It makes sense: when more people are included, companies have access to more skill sets, which means each team member can spend more time focusing on what they are good at and less time doing things they struggle with or don’t enjoy.
But the benefits to efficiency don’t stop there!
When team members are able to work on tasks and projects that align with their unique abilities, they’ll be able to produce higher quality work in less time. Higher quality work requires fewer revisions, allowing projects to be completed on time and on budget more regularly.
Lastly, collaborative leadership leads to greater innovation. You may be the smartest person in the room, but you’re not the only one who’s capable of coming up with good ideas. By collaborating with others and allowing their ideas and opinions to be heard, you’ll open both yourself and your company up to a whole new world of possibilities.
What Makes a Collaborative Leader?
At this point, you know what collaborative leadership is and a few of the advantages that collaborative leaders enjoy. Now it’s time to dive deep into the nitty-gritty. In this section, we’ll teach you exactly what to do to become the game-changing collaborative leader you always knew you could be.
1. Know Your Purpose
Knowing your purpose is the foundation of the collaborative leadership methodology. Without a clear purpose of why you want to prioritize collaboration at your company, you’re dead in the water.
Have you been unable to really connect with your team using other leadership strategies? Are you hoping to solve a specific organizational problem? Maybe you just feel that a more collaborative atmosphere will suit your personality best.
The reason you want to invest in collaborative leadership isn’t nearly as important as simply understanding what that reason is. So take some time to unearth your purpose before moving on to the next tip. It’s worth the time and effort, we promise!
2. Prioritize Communication
Collaboration can’t happen without communication. It’s literally impossible. Once you’ve hit on your purpose for adopting a collaborative leadership style, improving your communication skills and prioritizing their use is the next step.
But how do you become a better communicator? We have a few ideas:
- Learn to Listen: You can’t be an excellent communicator if you never take time to listen to your employees. Focus on what they’re telling you, their ideas, their concerns. Do your best to understand where they’re coming from. Then, attempt to respond appropriately. If you do this, your communication skills will improve.
- Notice Body Language: The body says a lot, even if the mouth never utters a word. You need to be cognizant of body language — both your own and your team’s. Restless hands, straight posture, and smiles all mean something. If you can display confident body language and learn to read the body language of your team, you’ll do well.
- Invest in the Right Tools: Modern technology makes it much easier to communicate with team members than in centuries past. These days, your employees could be located halfway around the world, and you would still be able to speak with them quickly. So choose your tools. Apps like Slack, Asana, and CloudApp are all excellent choices.
If you learn to listen, notice body language, and invest in the right communication tools, you’ll be able to effectively communicate with your team and become a more collaborative leader.
3. Level the Playing Field
Collaborative leadership only works when a leader is willing to step down off of their high horse and level the playing field with their employees. Getting off your high horse doesn’t mean a leader gives up their authority. But it does mean that they work to break down silos, communicate effectively, share information, and actually work with the team they manage.
If your team feels undervalued, untrusted, disrespected, or looked down upon, they won’t be nearly as effective in their work as they could be.
It’s your job as a collaborative leader to make sure everyone feels included and works well together. The easiest way to do this is to lead by example and lower yourself to the same level as your team to better work with them.
4. Let Your Guard Down
Another way to level the playing field and become a more collaborative leader is to let your guard down. What do we mean by that? Don’t be afraid of vulnerability. It’s okay to admit that you, the leader of your team, don’t have all of the answers. If you did, you probably wouldn’t need your employees. But you obviously do, so there’s no point in pretending otherwise.
When you let your guard down and allow your team to collaborate with you, you’ll find that they begin to take more ownership of their work, complete tasks more efficiently, and help your company achieve better outcomes regularly.
You can’t genuinely collaborate with your employees if you never take this step. Once you do, you’ll enable your company to flourish.
5. Embrace Constructive Conflict
Here’s the thing: when you give your employees a voice and commit to collaborating with them regularly, you open the door to conflict. Understand the concept that conflict isn’t a bad thing. The fact that your team members are so passionate about their work that they’re willing to argue about it is a great sign. As the leader, you will be the one that has to look at yourself, and your arguing style — and your listening style.
The key is to ensure that all conflict is constructive and handled appropriately. We suggest setting rules and guidelines to follow in the case of a disagreement. For example:
- Be Respectful: You and your team may disagree, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to sling derogatory words or disrespect another employee. Always be civil. If tempers are too hot to ensure a calm, constructive conversation, take a break. Also, in regards to respect, don’t allow team members to talk over each other. Everyone should get a fair chance to explain their ideas without having to raise their voice.
- Agree to Disagree: At the end of the day, some of your employees may disagree with the decision you make — even after you’ve explained to them, in detail, why you made it. This isn’t a problem as long as your team adopts an “agree to disagree” mentality. Just because one idea was chosen over another doesn’t mean the first idea was bad or the person who came up with it won’t have the winning idea next time.
- Find Common Ground: Always remind your team that they all have the same goal in mind: to achieve greater success for your company. While they may disagree on how to go about doing that, they can at least find common ground in this respect.
Collaborative leadership will lead to conflict. But if you use the tips above, you’ll be able to handle it in a constructive manner that actually benefits your company.
6. Build a Strong Network
The best collaborative leaders are great networkers. They don’t burn bridges and do their best to maintain relationships with many different kinds of people. Doing so will help them build better teams in the future who excel at collaborating.
Do your best to meet new and exciting people and stay in touch with them. These relationships will only benefit you down the road.
7. Dive-in and Get Started
The final tip we have for you is to dive in and get started! Adopting a collaborative leadership model is often messy — especially if your company has been entrenched in a top-down leadership style for an extended period. But the rewards are worth it.
Collaborate and Win
Collaborative leadership is the way of the future. If you adopt this organizational structure at your company, you can expect to experience numerous benefits, including happier employees, more efficient processes, and greater innovation.
Fortunately, becoming a collaborative leader isn’t rocket science. Just follow the tips and tricks we outlined in this article:
- Know Your Purpose
- Prioritize Communication
- Level the Playing Field
- Let Your Guard Down
- Embrace Constructive Criticism
- Build a Strong Network
- Dive-in and Get Started
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