Be a collaborative leader, part 1

Collaboration is a word that we generally associate with teams, not with leaders.


Teams collaborate, and leaders lead, right?


If a leader wanted to be collaborative with an individual, what would that look like? With a large department or group? With other executives?


This may sound attractive in theory, but it can be difficult to recall examples of what this would look like.


So, you want to be a more collaborative leader?


Here are 10 practical, real world examples of how this could look for a manager today inside a corporation….


1)       When it’s annual budget planning time, invite team members to suggest what will be needed next year, when and why. Include “nice to haves” too along with rationale. This can take the form of a shared spreadsheet on Sharepoint or GoogleDocs.


2)     When it’s time to assign work or tasks, try asking for volunteers instead. For extra credit, try assigning responsibility instead of tasks. Delegate. It’s empowering!


3)     When you do need to assign something to a specific person, still ask… “Would you please “… and leave space for the person to decline, if they feel strongly. Give as many choices as possible. Choice is collaborative and it is also empowering.


4)     Create space for things to go right. Find a way to have vision that the team can succeed. If you have doubts, the team or team member will sense your doubts. Share the concern and then ask how they feel and ask what is needed to mitigate. If the concern is with an individual team member, communicate one-on-one. In either case, be hard on the issue, and soft on the person.


5)     As a collaborative leader, it’s important to say what you think. But, if your emotions (including anger) are still fresh and unchecked, the timing may not yet be the best. Try reflecting on your intention first. What do I hope will happen as a result of this sharing? What is my intention? Speak the truth in love.


6)     Make a “travel” bag of collaborative tools – sticky notes in several sizes and colors, blue painters tape, index cards (in while and maybe an extra color or two). Let team members know that they are welcome to take this bag to gathers too…it’s a shared resource. Keep it stocked and ready to go.


7)      Share information openly whenever possible. Share it in a way that allows people to quickly know if this is optional to read versus if it is integral to their day-to-day mission. For example, if several times a week you have “FYI” info, consider posting to an internal blog, board, or even an email with a easy to categorize title. For example – Just FYI #1, Just FYI #2, or Learning about our customers #1. Learning about our customers #2, etc.


8)      To develop annual performance goals for and with a larger group, start a collaborative space on a team wall with print-outs of the related missions, goals, and visions that we want to align with. Then, start writing sticky notes with brainstorm ideas of potential goals. Invite team members to contribute with this silent brainstorming method. Write new sticky notes with updated summaries of what looks best for the team. Encourage participation. Leave the wall up for a while so that people can see the connection between suggested goals and what was decided.


9)     When a few people are remote and the rest are “all in one” room, leave a webex with chat window open and projected onto an easily visible screen so that the remote folks can chime in with written ideas and questions and even a “raised hand” via chat during the conversation. Because it is very hard to collaboratively join in when you are a single remote person to a team. Of course you can use a webcam based system to give the remote person visual cues.  But the running chat window along with webconferencing or other tools like googledocs or Confluence is a practical alternative.


10)  Another collaborative idea for including remote team members is to post snapshots of the team idea walls and boards every week and post to a shared location. Our admin (who we love) takes the pix and posts to Sharepoint every Monday. Would be great to add occasional photo’s of the team, too. and ask remote team members to share pix from their life as well. Even pix of their backyard or the recent snow story can help to bring us closer.


What’s your collaboration story?


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2 Responses to “Be a collaborative leader, part 1”

  1. Rule breaker, rule maker, and not a rule follower | Agile Dreamer Says:

    […] rules at the first opportunity. Some ideas for collaboration: Be a collaborative leader  (see also part 2 and […]

  2. jeffreynewman Says:

    Great postings! First found you via ‘socializing ideas’. Collaborative leadership is, according to Philip Boxer: Type 3 – now the only viable approach but still scarce. http://www.brl. (I can’t remember if it’s org or com but google)

    Also, do have a look at the Earth Charter

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