collaboration blog Great People Inside

Leaders Are Struggling with Collaboration

Collaboration is critical to thriving in an ever-changing environment — it helps organisations solve complex problems in less time by bringing together various experts, accelerating go-to-market time, and responding more rapidly to fast-changing environments.

Failing to practice collaboration can put your organisation behind your competition in a fast-paced 21st century. Research shows that 81 % of people believe that collaboration is critical and 71% think their managers are making it a priority.

So, why do so many companies still fail to collaborate?

Senior executives have an unrealistic vision of collaboration. They assume their direct reports are aligned with the strategic vision. Or have an idealised — conflict-free — image of what a highly collaborative team should look like. Pushing people to work together doesn’t work.

True collaboration cannot be imposed — it happens from within. Merely putting a team of experts or specialists on the same project is not enough — leaders must create the right conditions.

A survey by Harvard Business Review cites — no surprise — that organisational silos (67%) are the key obstacle for lack of collaboration (no collaborative vision from leaders 32%, and senior managers not wanting to give up control 32%). However, those silos are not physical barriers but driven by people’s mindset and behaviour. The culture, leadership, fear of control, and lack of time inhibit successful collaboration.

Collaboration is a byproduct of culture — it requires the right conditions, mindset, and tools.

How to avoid falling in these collaboration traps? Well, here are a few tips and tricks.

1. Avoid the Collaboration Burnout

Always-on cultures, demanding bosses, collaborating with a decentralised workforce spread across different time zones, and inefficient use of technology are draining people.

Tech tools like collaboration platforms have increased team communication and productivity. But overuse and inefficient practices create a collaboration overload.

Also, new research has uncovered another reason: much collaborative overload is driven by people’s desire to maintain a reputation as helpful — by trying to over-collaborate, they find themselves at a breaking point.

When clients hire me to help their teams adopt new behaviours, the first I tell them is, “What are you going to get rid of? New practices should replace old ones, not add more burden to your team.”

The collaboration burnout drains teams. People are busy jumping from one thing to another at the expense of having less time for deep work, effective decision making, and to build strong relationships with other team members.

Your team doesn’t have an infinite capacity — collaboration is time and energy consuming. If you ask people to engage in a new collaborative project, give them space to get rid of other tasks.

2. Groups Don’t Want to Sacrifice their Identity

In mandating and driving collaboration initiatives, leaders tend to focus on outcomes, processes, and logistic. However, they forget to consider how the groups interpret that request — Lisa Kwan calls this the collaboration blind spot.

Each team has a culture of its own. When managers ask them to break down barriers, share information or resources, people feel threatened — they worry about how this might affect their identity.

Respect each group’s identity. Not doing so can make people retreat into themselves and assume a defensive posture — they will become siloed instead of collaborative.

To engage in effective cross-group collaboration, teams might feel safe and protected. It’s better to start small than to expect groups to share all their secrets and resources instantly.

3. Technology Doesn’t Solve People Problems

Most managers now spend 85% or more of their work time collaborating via e-mail, meetings, group messaging platforms or on the phone — that has increased by 50% over the past decade.

The digital revolution has accelerated the ability to engage with other people. However, there’s a difference between interacting with other people and effective collaboration — it’s the outcome, not the time spent, what matters.

Technology facilitates collaboration but doesn’t encourage it. Having the right tools is essential to accelerate cooperation, but if organisations don’t fix the people problems discussed above, technology won’t be useful enough.

Lastly, organisations must train their employees on how to use technology more mindfully. Today, many people are suffering from burnout — they need a digital detox, not more tech.

Collaboration is a way of working — it attracts and brings together people outside the regular structure, practices, and expertise — to accomplish a complex shared goal. But it’s far from being smooth or conflict-free.

A human-centred approach can help avoid the collaboration trap. It requires understanding the challenges through people’s eyes. To develop a culture that is safe for teams to let go of being defensive and work together in achieving something more meaningful.

Human beings are collaborative by nature but don’t collaborate by default — it’s up to you to create the right conditions for successful cooperation.

Given our current situation knowing that your colleagues or employees are best suited for this new scenario we find ourselves in. Finding the right talent, the best fit for the job and your organisation can be a very challenging task. It is now important to find out whether your managers or your team is well-equipped of working together from various locations. It requires deep knowledge of their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, interests, work style and other characteristics. Our technology and solutions will do the work for you, helping you discover if your people are resilient during times of hardship, if they are autonomous, if they are team players, without actual human contact. Given that our platform is cloud-based, everyone can use it from home as well. Humanity finds itself at a crossroad for various reasons now, why not help people discover and develop themselves from the comfort of their own homes?

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