Be a collaborative leader, part 2

Collaboration takes being willing to admit a few things:

a)      I don’t have all the answers.

b)      We are interdependent.

c)       We are better together.

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

1)      Go first. If you want more collaboration from your coworkers, go first. Be a role model. Set an example. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi.

2)      Learn the email “Failure bow.” As a collaborative leader, we “own” our mistakes, and the mistakes of our team. Resist the temptation to “throw others under the bus.” One way to “own up” to a mistake in email…is to write “Whoops. I own this. We will send out an updated proposal on Monday.” That’s the collaborative leader high road! Be ready to learn from failure.

3)      Occasionally ask team members these questions when you meet in 1:1’s: A) What do you need from me to feel supported? B) What do you need from me to accomplish the work successfully?

4)      With every decision – ask yourself: Who else could make this decision? Who is closest to the work? Under what conditions can I give this decision to the team? Or at least part of the decision to the team?

5)      Onboarding email & questions for a new team:

“I am committed to collaboration, learning, and openness. And always look for ways to honor those values and get things done.

We will be setting up 1:1’s for me to meet with each of you. Here are the questions that I would like to ask!


A)     What are the biggest challenges that our team is facing (or will face) in the near future?

B)      What are the most promising possibilities?

C)      What teams do you interface with today? And what are some ideas for strengthening those partnerships?

D)     What do you hope for yourself at work this year?

E)      What do you hope I do?

F)      What are you concerned I might do?

G)     What are you concerned I might not do?

6)      Everyone needs mentoring/coaching and feedback. None of us can improve or even maintain a high level of collaborative leadership without coaching. Here are a few ways to enable this: A) engage a coach for either individual or group (aka coaching circle) coaching for internal collaborative leaders. Agile Coaching Institute is one recommended source of coaches. B) ask team members for volunteers who are ready to learn how to audit a peer’s work and give the peer 1:1 confidential feedback,

7)       “Reality is your friend” quote from Henry Cloud in the book Integrity. Since reality matters, as collaborative leaders our job is to ask questions and then get ready to listen. Don’t be in such a hurry to make decisions that you barge in with your own plan.

8)      Transform staff meetings into learning communities… start first, then go around the room asking everyone to share one thing that they learned this past week. It’s much more engaging and collaborative than asking people to report status up to the manager… Everyone learns. Everyone participates. Everyone has a chance to build. It’s beautiful.

9)      Leading volunteers has a whole different feel to it than leading “employees.” Think of everyone in the team, the organization, the co company, and the project– as a volunteer. Imagine that this is your kid’s soccer or baseball team and you are a volunteer coordinator or coach. How would you like to be treated?  Collaboratively, I’ll bet!

10)   Career planning is an area that traditional managers are often instructed to leave alone. Big corporations these days often say “it is the employee’s career, let the employee initiate and own.” There is wisdom in that. But there is also a big gap. As a collaborative leader, we create distance and disengagement with this position. Here is one approach that is collaborative without creating entitlement. Create a questionnaire that enables a conversation about options, possibilities, and directions. Directions can include: a) learning new skills or products, b) increasing opportunity to coach or mentor others, c) broader or different responsibility. This questionnaire becomes a tool that sets the stage for a collaborative conversation about the future. A conversation preferably initiated by the mentee!


What’s your collaboration story?


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