Be a collaborative leader, part 3

I am inspired to write this series because I am learning that being “agile” is not enough. Starting up 15+ scrum teams is not enough. Hearing that team members that are happier in self-organizing teams is not enough.  Even delivering frequent, iterative value is not enough. Without Collaborative Leadership, we will revert back to the old way. Slowly. Surely. Sadly.

I am a manager inside a large enterprise. There are the ways that I am learning and practicing Collaborative Leadership… try it, you’ll like it!

1)        Hiring is a critical time. People make the difference. How will you collaboratively find an A player who will fit with your collaborative environment & who can do the work? Be collaborative Send a draft job description to the team members who will work with the new person. Invite their edits and comments! Invite their referrals for the position – after all, who better to recommend a great candidate? Invite these same team members to collaboratively build a set of interview questions and invite them to contribute to the interview timings and structure as well. And after a round of interviews is completed, invite the interviewers to a collaborative sharing and discussion of the candidates. This collaborative candidate review is powerful and revealing.

  1. Before we start the interviews, I would like to request your ideas and input on the interview process ..


  1. In some cases, team members enjoy interviewing their potential manager in pairs. People have shared that they found this helpful because they were also able to observe the candidate answering other person’s questions. And they learned from one another how to improve their own interviews for the future – by that observation. Is this something that you are interested in trying?


  1. We will hold a group debrief following the interview so that everyone can share their impressions with one another. I am finding that this is very valuable because it allows us to hear different perspectives upfront, before hiring. And also to build together a stronger picture of what we need in the new member and why it matters to us. For example, in the past debriefs, several people commented that they felt that a given candidate would “go to bat for them.” This was significant because two different people commented this about two different candidates. Now we know that our candidate will need to be strong in this quality.


  1. On the second round interview, we are also trying something new. The candidate is holding an interactive session … we are simulating a team meeting. The candidate is presenting on the topic of “10 things I’ve learned.”


  1. I would also love to hear your ideas on who we want to be on our interview panel. Who is effective at interviewing?


  1. PS: here is an interesting article

#39 – How to interview and hire people « Scott Berkun

2)      Be vulnerable. Share your own learnings. Your own mistakes. We don’t learn by always being perfect. In fact, none of us is perfect!

3)      When it comes time to Celebrate – plan the celebration together. Enjoy celebrating as a group and ask team members for celebration suggestions.

4)      Everyone loves to be appreciated. And yet appreciations are infrequently shared. Try making an Appreciations wall with sticky notes and public appreciations. Go first, add the first appreciation note, sign and date it so that older appreciations can be aged out.  Appreciate teams too! So much of what goes right is due to successful team collaboration.

5)      Keep gardening – this is how we soften the ground, it’s a marathon without a single destination, not a sprint a. Use internal blogs & newsletters to encourage and nurture new ideas and soft ideas. I recently wrote an internal blog post called “I’m bored”…I can already see that this will be a “best seller” post because it is hitting a nerve. People care. People read. People talk. Give them something deep to talk about, insightful, meaningful, challenging. Plant seeds.

6)      When facilitating meetings, remember the facilitator motto of “all voices heard”… ask everyone to participate. Ask people for their ideas and opinions by name. It’s engaging to be addressed by name. It is energizing and collaborative. And it can be a bit stressful too – so as a facilitator, make it OK for the person to remain quiet – “Great, you are in agreement with what has been shared” or “We’ve got everything covered so far, good to know.”

7)      Sometimes, you will still need to “take charge.” Being a collaborative leader doesn’t make you a fulltime facilitator, a wallflower, or worse yet, road-kill. Some decisions need to be made independent of the team. The world is not a black and white place. There is a lot of gray, and fuchsia, and aqua, and many other colors! Ask yourself, “with more time, would I be able to make this decision more collaboratively?” and if the answer is no – then stop pretending that the decision is still open for collaboration. Instead, get open with the team and explain both the decision and your rationale.

8)      Relationships & alliances matter– you are not the lone ranger or even the lone facilitator– this is a system we are talking about. And relationships matter more than hierarchy. More than titles. More that org charts. To get more of a sense of how alliances form an energy pattern, reference Michael Spayd’s work with Constellations here and here.  Whenever you sense tension in a relationship, then in fact there is tension. And it’s good to keep that in mind if you are expecting the other person or group to collaborate with you, your team, or your initiative.

9)      Create (mental and emotional) space for teamwork. A)  Welcome and thank people communicating bad news early, B) Say “we” more…especially when taking credit!, C) Say “I” when taking a failure bow, read the rest of this post here

10)   Develop collaborative leaders – everywhere you go, commit to be a force for developing collaborative leaders. You are a collaborative leader, you believe in agile values, help others to step up into this role, too. Start with vision, see others through a lens that highlights the positive and the collaborative. If they come to you with a problem, listen and ask powerful questions, ie If we had everything we needed for this then how would it look? Assume that they want to become collaborative leaders themselves. Assume the best. Act “as if.”

It’s your turn…


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