Collaboration and continuous improvement

collaboration and continuous improvement

Collaboration is when two or more people work together toward shared goals.  It is the vehicle that conveys the success of a business. Also, it is what makes possible a successful culture transformation from traditional to continuous improvement.  Being so crucial, you would expect entrepreneurs and c-suite leadership to treat it with the criticality it deserves.  Like most things in life, you can learn how to collaborate.  Therefore, this skill should be part of what you model and teach to your team.  

There are two pieces of this story.  One is how you motivate colleagues to support your ideas, and the other is how to teach collaboration.  Let me tackle the first one today and the second on my next post.

Learning collaboration

I started my career working in a research & development department.  The department would be successful, only if it works in collaboration with everybody else.  For that reason, since day one, my boss makes a point of teaching me how to do it.  Moreover, she modeled the behavior.

Present your ideas and listen 

The first step is to communicate your initiative or ideas with clarity.  Clear and effective communication minimizes confusion.  Be honest about your intentions and present them subjectively.  In other words, talk about the benefits, challenges, and risks. Present the facts, show data if you have it.

Secondly, let people express their concerns.  While they talk, you should listen.  Active listening occurs when you suppress the need to dominate the conversation or provide ways to solve problems.  Instead, you listen and focus on the speaker.  Notice the speaker’s body language, tone, and emotions while it speaks.  Understanding how he/she feels helps to recognize the implications of the words.  As a result, the communication would flow better.  

For better collaboration, assume positive intent and switch between being a leader and a follower. 

Further, practice positive intent.  Assume that people want to do the right thing.  That they are as invested in the company success as you are.  It is easier to be receptive when you come into a discussion with that positive thought.    

When you are a leader, regardless of rank or title, you are used to making decisions and give orders. Accept criticism is not easy, especially if it comes from your team or colleagues.  But for successful collaboration, you need to learn how to accept feedback.  Sometimes you have to listen and follow, while others you talk and lead.  

Nevertheless, for the team is not easy to receive feedback either.   Clear and effective communication is essential for accepting criticism.  Explain why feedback is important.  If you notice aversion, ask why and address the situation.  While giving feedback, be specific and direct.  For instance, provide examples.

Summary

Leadership support and modeling of those behaviors that enable collaboration are vital for its success.  If leaders are not capable or willing to collaborate, their teams will not do it either.  To promote team collaboration, leaders should practice mentoring and coaching.  Also, collaboration as a skill should be a key part of some human resources activities.  Some of those activities are hiring, promotions, and selection for further training.  

Anywhere more than one person works, the collaboration will be imperative to achieve desired results.  Therefore, modeling and enforcing it will be a crucial part of the continuous improvement transformation.  The way each team member reacts while working together is also critical.    But that is the subject of the next post.