9 Mistakes That Sabotage Collaboration

9 Mistakes That Sabotage Collaboration and Destroy Trust

You’re working hard and want to win. So do your co-workers. You think, “we’re all on the same team, so why does everything we do seem to sabotage collaboration?”

Ironically, it’s usually the well-meaning, high-achievers that inadvertently sabotage collaboration.

When you’re that focused on winning, it’s tough to remember that the competition isn’t in the guy in the left Zoom window, it’s mediocrity.

If you’re a manager of rock star managers who are all driving one another crazy,  start by ensuring you have truly interdependent goals, and eliminating stack ranks that pit peers against one another.

Much of the time when collaboration breaks down, it’s because everyone is playing the game they’ve been told to win—which actually is a zero-sum game. If your structure says I have to lose for you to win, don’t expect your high-performers to collaborate.

Beyond that, we’ve found the next best way to jump-start collaboration is to make it safe to talk about what’s sabotaging it and what to do instead.

9 Mistakes that Sabotage Collaboration

So if you’re struggling with your peers, or have a team of managers who like one another well enough, but are competing instead of collaborating, try addressing these common mistakes that sabotage collaboration.

See what resonates and talk about a path forward.

It might surprise you how quickly people fess up, “Oh, that’s me. I’m definitely the guy with unbridled tenacity.”

1. Thinking Your View is THE View

When everyone is heads-down focused on getting things done, it’s easy to see lose sight of other people’s perspectives.

We see it all the time. HR sees compliance training as the most important thing—with lots of good reasons. Sales thinks HR has lost their mind to even consider doing training at a time like this. Customer service needs sales to stop making promises they can’t deliver on.

Everyone’s right, everyone’s frustrated, and everyone’s finding it hard to accomplish their most important priorities.

2. Over-advocating for the Home Team

Of course, advocating for, and defending your team, is generally a good characteristic. Your team wants to know you have their backs. It’s also important to keep a realistic and balanced perspective.

Sometimes the best person for that coveted special assignment isn’t your box nine candidate. Sometimes it’s YOUR team that screwed things up and the best next step is to apologize, not defend.  And yes, sometimes the bigger bonus needs to go to the guy on the other team who knocked it out of the park—even though your team has been working hard too.

3. Hoarding Talent

When you’ve spent significant time developing your team, it can be difficult to let them go to another team or department—even if it’s in their best interest, or for the greater good of the organization. After all, who wants to be the farm team for the rest of the company? But when you keep talent to yourself, you limit opportunities for your people—and overall performance suffers.
How can we encourage more collaboration for talent development and staffing?

4. Shutting Down Ideas

Because We Have Always Done It This WayIn our Courageous Cultures research, 67% of the respondents operated under the notion that “this is the way we’ve always done it.” And those same managers just as likely to shut down ideas from a peer.

5. Unbridled Tenacity

When you know you’re “right,” it can be tough to figure out how to also be effective. When you disagree in front of an audience, particularly if that audience is your boss, even if you’re right, your peers may feel like you’ve thrown them under the bus.

6. Not Spending Enough Time Together

It’s easy to under-invest in coworker relationships. Leaders tend to focus on their team and boss first and hope the peer relationships will evolve naturally. Just like any human interaction, coworker relationships take time and energy to grow properly. In addition, peer relationships are naturally tricky since you’re often competing in a stack rack, for resources or for senior leader attention.

7. Not Asking For Help

When you know your coworkers are slammed, it’s hard to ask for help. But if no one asks, how do you know how to be most helpful?

8. Not Acknowledging One Another’s Contribution

Okay, suppose they did help you. And now you’re getting praise for your great work, but forget to mention their support. Now they’re ticked off.

9. Withholding Best Practices

Often high-performers will share ideas and best practices when you ask for them, but are too busy (or competitive) to do so proactively.

Or they don’t share because they don’t want to look braggy. Meanwhile, people are wasting time spinning their wheels because they’re unaware that a coworker has already figured it out.

Talking about these common problems that sabotage collaboration (even in the abstract) can help you find a better path forward to better teamwork to take everyone’s performance to the next level.

See Also: Fast Company, How to Deal  With Toxic High Achievers

Where to start when your team won't collaborate

Where to Start When Your Team Won’t Collaborate

 

You’ve got a clear goal, you’ve made sure everyone knows what matters most, but your team still won’t collaborate. It’s a frustration many leaders face. If this happens to you, it may be because you’ve only got halfway to the clarity your team needs. In this episode David shares where to start when your team won’t collaborate.

Great Leaders Have No Rules

Great Leaders Have No Rules-Interview with Kevin Kruse

 

What are the rules you’ve created that get in the way of you and your team’s success? What if there were a better way?

In this powerful interview with serial-entrepreneur, New York Times best selling author, and LEADx founder, Kevin Kruse, we discuss the vast power of co-creation and the ownership you can build in your team (and life). Recognize that Great Leaders Have No Rules (the title of Kevin’s most recent book) and how to lead yourself and your team in a way that transforms outcomes, is more fun, and doesn’t drive you or anyone else nuts.

Oh, and there are a few bits of marketing wisdom and personal leadership examples too.

Links from the show:

More about How to Improve Your Team Communications – and the Checklist

Learn more about Kevin Kruse

Check out Kevin’s LEADx project and podcast

Great Leaders Have No Rules

 

 

Practical Ideas for Fostering True Collaboration: A Frontline Festival

This months topic, collaboration, is particularly poignant for me, as the Frontline Festival has now been an active collaborative adventure including thought leaders around the world for five-and-a-half years.

In March of 2013, while still working at Verizon and having been blogging for under a year, I sent a curious email to thought leaders whom I respected and asked them if they’d be willing to share their very best leadership thinking for frontline leaders.  I was overwhelmed by the response of so many well-established bloggers willing to play along.

I was a busy executive and an earnest rookie blogger. For grins, you can see my headshot at the time 😉

I could never have imagined how many of those who originally contributed would still be sharing their insights on this our 66th Frontline Festival, as well as all of the new people who would have joined along the way.

Some of you may remember our original Festival branding (see right.)

I’m delighted that so many of these contributors have become collaborators in many other ways and some of whom have now become incredible friends. And yes, this first Frontline Festival is the first nugget of collaboration I had with David, who is now my husband, co-author, and business partner.

I have learned so much from all of you. I am grateful for the work you on our shared mission of growing leaders.

You can see the inaugural post here. 

We’re always welcoming new contributors. In honor of customer service week, next month’s festival is all about customer service. You can submit your blog post URL  here!

Now, on to collaboration!

Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

Collaboration Tools and Techniques

Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds writes The Work of ColLABORation. Done well, collaboration looks effortless. It appears to be a fluid give-and-take, a hand-in-glove partnership among individuals who make it all look natural and easy. But these appearances belie the fact that ‘labor’ is at the center of collaboration… and that most collaboration is the result of very deliberate work and attention.

We particularly love Julie’s 3D reflection approach where people are encouraged to reflect on what they need, what the other person needs, and what they most need together.  Follow Julie.

Sean Glaze of Great Results Teambuilding asks, How Can I Get Rid of Silos on My Team? Lack of collaboration (Silo-ing) occurs because of a lack of clarity in terms of expectations…If you set up those expectations, with an organizational chart that shows who everyone is responsible for, those relationships provide clarity and keep communication flowing.  Follow Sean.

Laura Schroeder of Working Girl shares Get Off the Couch: Agility, Innovation and Failure. Collaboration helps drive innovation but how you do it matters. Without a cohesive strategy and clear priorities pulling everyone in the right direction – and clear game rules – collaboration on its own can result in wasted effort and demotivated teams. Follow Laura. 

Collaboration, Innovation and Productivity

Jesse Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership gives us Let’s Stop Confusing Cooperation and Teamwork with Collaboration. Often the words collaboration, coordination, and cooperation are used to describe effective teamwork. But they are not the same. When we use these words interchangeably, we dilute their meaning and diminish the potential for creating powerful, collaborative workplaces. Follow Jesse.

Great insights here about how collaboration relates to vision. True collaboration involves working together to achieve something new.

David Grossman of The Grossman Group provides What Great Teams are Made Of (It’s Not What You Might Expect.)  A study found that the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50 percent or more over the last two decades. The message is clear: paying attention to how teams interact is critical for effective leadership. Research shows that the best and most effective teams aren’t those that combined the best and brightest people, but rather, something you might not expect.  Follow David.

Collaboration is like carbonation for fresh ideas. Working together bubbles up ideas you would not have come up with solo, which gets you further faster. ~ Caroline Ghosn

Ronni Hendel of InsightOut Leadership offers New Ways to Navigate the Increasing Complexities of Work.  One of the keys to operating in complexity is recognizing that expertise alone won’t get us to the finish line. Collaboration is required. Ronni explores a powerful model for understanding complexity and collaboration. Follow Ronni.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership gives us The Team’s the Thing and the People are the Team.  For the most productive teams, it’s all about the people. Follow Wally.

Collaboration and Influence

As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life. ~ Amy Poehler

Sophie Blumenthal of Resume Library shares How to Give Constructive Feedback to Your Boss. This post highlights how to give constructive feedback to your boss, demonstrating how collaborating on all levels can be beneficial to employers and employees. Follow Sophie.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited offers How to Handle the Workplace Nag. Some co-workers want to “over-collaborate” in the form of constant reminding or following up. Here are a few tips, based loosely on a true story, to collaborate more effectively in that situation. Follow Beth.

Robyn McLeod of Thoughtful Leaders Blog provides Four Steps to Making Office Politics Work for You.  Learn how to avoid office politics, so you can make your daily work life much more rewarding and create pathways for even greater success.  Follow Robyn.

Collaboration and Virtual Teams

Rachel Blakely-Gray of Patriot Software, LLC  gives us Four Ways to Increase Collaboration in the Virtual Workplace. Collaboration in the workplace shouldn’t just be encouraged among your in-house staff. Use the four tips in this article to encourage collaboration by your remote employees, too.  Follow Rachel.

Ken Downer of Rapid Start Leadership offers Leading a Virtual Team: 12 Powerful Ways to Lead a Team You Can’t See.  Collaboration gets harder as the physical distance between teammates grows. Here are 12 ways to close the gap and improve teamwork even when you are miles or time zones apart.  Follow Ken.

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates wrote What a Sailboat Captain Taught Me about Leading in Adversity.  When you are on stormy seas with a small crew on a small boat you need to collaborate with one another to make it through the adversity.  Follow Shelley.

Stories of Collaboration

Paula Kiger of Big Green Pen gives us a book review of What the Eyes Don’t See.  When Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha saw signs of a problem in her community, her questions were refused and minimized. It took collaboration with other caring people to help her get her message across and save lives. Follow Paula.

Scott Savage of Thin Difference offers Learning from Lincoln: How Our Greatest President Invited Difficult People to the Table. The world doesn’t get better when we tune out contrary voices and opposing opinions. Echo chambers don’t make a better world – collaboration does.  Follow Scott.

collaboration - can we trust you

Collaboration – Can We Really Trust You?

It’s easy to talk about collaboration. It’s much harder to do it.

After visiting one of our clients in Guatemala City, Karin, Sebastian, and I traveled to Antigua, Guatemala where my daughter owns a clothing design business. She took us to Hobbitengango, a Tolkein-inspired Hobbit-like village set in the mountains overlooking a beautiful Guatemalan valley whose motto is “Disconnect to reconnect.”collaboration - building trust

There, we met Dan, one of the visionaries and architects behind the solar and wind-powered village (where you can stay overnight in a Hobbit house and enjoy fantastic food.) Dan is passionate about Guatemala’s natural resources. He works to fight deforestation, regrow Guatemala’s forests, and clean up trash in the countryside.

He shared some of the challenges he encountered creating what has become a popular tourist destination.

When he started out, Dan encountered a man who was illegally harvesting lumber. He called the authorities. They caught the man and asked if Dan wanted to press charges.

Instead, Dan offered the man a job: planting trees.

“He needed to make a living and support his family. He can’t do that from jail,” Dan said. “Now he’s able to provide and he’s repairing some of the damage he did to the forest.”

Dan shared another incident where a car drove off the road and into a neighboring farmer’s field where it did a lot of damage. As soon as he heard about the damage, Dan went to see what had happened.

When he arrived at the field, a woman “rushed out of her house, waving a machete, and yelling, saying I destroyed her fields and don’t care about anyone.”

Dan explained that another motorist had caused the damage. He had also already called his soil construction expert to repair her field. In addition, he would build a fence for her property at his expense to prevent future problems.

“She seemed surprised that I didn’t fight back, that I didn’t want to argue.”

Dan smiled, then said, “Why make enemies when you can make friends?”

Why make enemies when you can make friends?

Land in the And

We meet many leaders who talk about the value of collaboration, who want their people working together, and who get frustrated when their colleagues won’t cooperate (which often means “why won’t you see things my way?”)

It caught our attention is that, as a leader, Dan wasn’t just “being nice” in building the relationships with his neighbor and the illegal logger. He was focused on achieving his business results: reversing damage to the forest and building a viable visitor attraction. He does it by building collaborative, results-focused relationships.

This is the heart of Winning Well: your ability to “land in the and” – to focus on both results and relationships, to show up with confidence and humility.

Collaboration – Can We Trust You?

Real collaboration isn’t easy because it requires you to put people before projects and truly invest in the other person’s success. How can you help your colleague achieve their results while they help you with yours?

If you’re in a cutthroat work environment and true collaboration is rare, this might feel incredibly vulnerable and perhaps even naïve.

In these situations, don’t sacrifice your project for the sake of building collaboration. Find small ways to invest in other people, to build trust, and create mutual wins. If someone is toxic and destructive, focus your energy with others.

It will take time.

Dan gained a great team member when he offered the illegal logger a job. His relationship with the farmer, however, didn’t turn into a collaborative success. He greets her and she nods. “But,” says Dan, “She’s not an enemy.”

Your Turn

Collaboration requires trust and investment in other’s success. Leave us a comment and share: How do you build collaborative results-focused relationships at work?

why your team won't collaborate and what to do about it

Why Your Team Won’t Collaborate (and What To Do About It)

“I’m sick of this crap! My team won’t collaborate – why can’t they just figure this out?”

Scott was CEO of an engineering firm that produced communications hardware and software for industries around the globe.

He had worked hard with his board and senior leadership team to settle on their strategic M.I.T. for the next 18 months. They needed to launch a new product to remain competitive in a market they had once led.

He held a company meeting where he made the goal painfully clear to everyone in the room. “We need to get this new product to market by this deadline, or we’re out of business in five years.”

Within six weeks he was exasperated. His people were at war with one another. Several senior VPs were about to quit and the do-or-die deadline was looking like a dream.

We see this frequently: leaders lay out a clear M.I.T. (for more on the Most Important Thing), they check for understanding, and they turn their people loose to get after it.

Before too long, customer service and sales are at each other’s throats. Engineering and marketing are having shouting matches in the halls while finance and human resources won’t talk at all.

When their team won’t collaborate we’ve watched executives get frustrated and shout, “Why can’t you guys figure this out? Just work together and solve the problem!”

Maybe you’re a frontline leader and you’ve worked hard to establish a clear, shared team vision and the M.I.T. initiative for this quarter, but your team ends up squabbling.

Why Your Team Won’t Collaborate

When your people can’t unify in pursuit of a common, clearly established goal, the problem is usually that you’ve only established 50% clarity.

You’ve clarified results, but you haven’t clarified relationships – and that is frequently why your team won’t collaborate.

In Scott’s case (and this is VERY common) he had made the new product a priority, but was still evaluating individual departments based on other criteria.

For instance, customer service was evaluated on their ability to retain customers, but at the same time, engineering was all but ignoring response-to-existing-customer requests in favor of getting the new product to market. So customer service naturally saw stubborn engineering as a threat to their bonuses and even employment.

Customer service continually requested that sales lend some of their people to try to save existing accounts. Sales people were being assessed on quotas that were unrelated to the new product’s launch.

In short, everyone was doing what made the most sense for their individual success and was frustrated that their colleagues wouldn’t cooperate.

Scott had defined an overarching goal, but had left the organizational systems and processes untouched.

Those systems and processes were built to achieve different goals.

When his people came to him and asked whether the engineering prioritization of new product over customer retention was okay, he got frustrated. “Why can’t they just figure it out?”

The answer: Because he’d given them conflicting goals.

What To Do About It When Your Team Won’t Collaborate

Real teams succeed or fail together. They have a clear goal and they all have a clear role to play in achieving it.

Effective leaders establish clarity of results and relationships.

Clarity of results is often easier to define:

  • What’s the M.I.T. we must accomplish this year?
  • What are our three most important strategic M.I.T. initiatives?
  • What are the M.I.T. behaviors we need at the executive, manager, and frontline levels?

Clarity of relationships, however, requires you to address some additional questions:

  • How are roles and handoffs defined and communicated?
  • How do department or individual team member priorities align with M.I.T. initiatives?
  • What are the most important values, systems, and processes guiding everyone’s behavior?

In Scott’s case, this meant we had to ask and answer some tough questions:

  • Would customer retention goals be lowered or continue at prior levels?
  • Either way, how could these be achieved in ways that aligned with the timely new product launch?
  • How much attention should engineering give to resolving existing customer issues?
  • How would performance bonuses be changed to align with the stated M.I.T. of the new product launch?

Your Turn

If you’ve established a clear M.I.T. but people are siloed, caught in endless arguments, and the team won’t collaborate, take a hard look at the relational clarity and how you can get everyone aligned with the new goal – not just in theory, but in reality.

Leave us a comment and share your thoughts: How do you ensure that everyone on your team understands their role in achieving a shared goal?

5 Ways to Strengthen Trust With Weak Ties

I would describe our meeting as a roll of the dice. Perhaps someday we will upgrade our relationship to “weak ties,” but yesterday we were just two of eight hundred and fifty humans at the Great Ideas Conference chatting through our freebie Hyatt sunglasses over lunchtime brisket and gluten-free potato salad. “Joe,” the CEO (named substituted for anonymity and rhyme), seemed genuinely intrigued by our LGL mission. He works with significant innovators (with a capital I– think people who will invent the next product you must have and will be willing to spend too much for.)

“Karin, what I’d be most interested to hear from you is how you build trust with weak ties. We depend on that. Getting true innovators to connect with and trust one another online and around the globe is a vital ingredient of real progress.”

Game on. I’ve got perspective (as Granovetter’s strength of weak ties theory is arguably my favorite communcation theory of all time), but I’m sure our LGL tribe is up to the challenge. Let’s go help Joe (and others ready to go) make positive change in our world.

5 Ways to Strengthen Trust With Weak Ties

All the components of the Green’s trust equation still apply (credibility + reliability + intimacy/ self orientation)

1. Share expertise (Credibility)

Share your good stuff. Showing up with real expertise will attract other curious and innovative souls. The more people are talking about your ideas, the higher the probability of being introduced to other experts with complementary or challenging views.

2. Respect Others Consistently (Reliability)

I’m always amazed at the stupidity of those who check out credentials before helping. Or treat folks differently based on letters behind their name or klout scores. Discriminatory respect ignores the strength of weak ties theory. Treat everyone with deep respect and you’ll be known as the “really great guy (or gal)” others “just have to meet.” The brother of the intern you met in the forum may turn out to be just who you need on your next project.

3. Do What You Say (Reliability)

It’s certainly easier to blow off a commitment to a weak tie than a colleague. You don’t have to help everyone, but if you say you will, do.

4. Be Real (Intimacy)

Don’t be a snob or tell us how wonderful you are, just show us through your ideas and engagement. Share a bit about yourself as a person. Be honest about where you’re stuck. Whether you’re around the world or sitting in the cube next door, human beings want to work with other human beings.

5. Give generously without expectation (Self-Orientation)

If you’re just out for yourself, people will smell it and tell their weak ties. Social media makes it easy folks, to warn the world. In my own collaborations, I’m consistently being warned of when to steer clear. “Trust checks” are often only a DM (Twitter Direct Message) away. (See also:  7 Reasons Collaboration Breaks Down.)

People trust people who know what they’re doing, who show up consistently with a generous heart. Be that guy, and your weak ties will quickly tighten into trusted bonds of true collaboration.

Other LGL Fun

Karin Hurt, CEO

I’ve had some fun with media interviews this week. A Fortune article on the hottest job trends, and Blogging and Marketing Tips by Experts on FirstSiteGuide and a round-up of most vital leaderhip characteristics. Tip: Blogging is a great way to give generously. Check out Matt Banner’s updated guide to starting a blog here.

5 Reasons to Lose a Battle- And How To Lose It With Grace

If I had to pick a side, I would have chosen hers. But picking sides was entirely beside the point.

The other guy’s heels were dug in deeper than skis sunk in a tree well of deep powder. No amount of convincing was going to change his mind. “It’s time to let it go.” I offered. “This battle is not worth winning.

“But I’m right, she insisted.”

That’s entirely possible. But the battle was weakening the relationship, and was making the project much less fun. When projects feel hard, they seldom blossom with creativity which is what we needed most. Plus the wasted energy was exhausting all of us.

Should the other, older and theoretically more mature guy have been the one to succumb? Perhaps. But he didn’t. Age isn’t necessarily a leadership competency.

And so I offer our collective wisdom from the scar tissue from this battle. I’m book marking this page as a reminder to myself as well. Battle losing is never handled.

5 Reasons to Lose a Battle

1. To maintain your dignity.

This may sound counterintuitive, but trust me, no one shows up at their very best when they’re spitting teeth mad. Even the ugly words that you’re saying on the inside ooze toxins from your pores.

2. To enhance your reputation

Others are watching how you handle the small battles. People respect (and look to follow) leaders who get the big picture and focus on the end game over minor irritations and disagreements.

3. To win the war

Getting mired down in the debate over the small stuff will drain the energy for what matters most.

4. You might be wrong

Just saying.

5. To preserve the relationship.

In long-term collaborations it’s almost always true that it’s more important to preserve the relationship rather than win on some minor point. Even if you’re majorly ticked off, consider the satellite relationships that are impacted by your disagreement.

How To Decide If a Battle’s Worth Losing

Members of our online community weighed in with some initial advice. I hope you’ll add yours.

Carey Green:

I find a simple question is helpful at times like this. ” Will my insistence on being right benefit or bless this person or advance our cause?” 

David Dye:

The phrase I use is “Do you want to be effective…or “right”?” As a leader, your team exists to achieve results. That, and the leaders you leave behind you, are the measures of success. More of than not, insistence on being ‘right’ prevents you from achieving either of those outcomes.

7 Reasons Collaboration Breaks Down

7 Reasons Collaboration Breaks Down

Great ideas come in halves.  Work is enhanced by true collaboration. One of the best parts of my entrepreneurial journey has been the amazing collaborations, in writing, in business, in shared passions.

I’ve got four deep collaborations in process now, including writing a children’s picture book with Alli Polin  and the launch of a Parent’s Guide to Leadership (a free ebook downloadable from the sidebar.)

I’ve also had a few false starts.

7 Reasons Collaboration Breaks Down

Here are my lessons learned. I look forward to hearing what you would add

  1. Misaligned Passions –Collaboration works best when you’re both deeply in it to win it. Your shared passion fuels inspiration. If one or the other of you is less of a zealot, sooner or later the spark will fade.
  2. Propinquity- Joining up with the usual suspects or the guy next door, simply because of convenience limits possibility. Go slower and cast a wider net when looking for potential partners. When you stumble on chemistry search deeper. Sure working with partners around the globe is logistically more tricky, but becoming easier each day due to amazing technology.
  3. Score Keeping – Real collaborators don’t keep score. They’re too engaged in the cause to count who’s doing what. The focus is on the end state.
  4. Surface Respect – For true collaboration to blossom mutual respect must run deep and thick.  It becomes slippery when one or the other feels superior.
  5. Fuzzy Communication- Collaboration requires a constant flow of real-time communication. Don’t rely on email or chats, look in each other’s eyes, even if it’s over Skype.
  6. Short Term View- True collaborators value the relationship over the small stuff. They’re willing to let go of what really doesn’t matter and spend time seeking to understand differences that do.
  7. Rigid Boundaries – True collaboration involves doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Toe stepping goes unnoticed or is met with a real-time discussion.

When To Stand Your Ground

“Pete” a leader in a new job with a substantial increase in scope and scale, asked me this seemingly simple question: “How do you know when to stand your ground?”

I knew he needed more than my first instinct of “just go with your gut”.

“I’ll stand my ground. And I won’t back down.”

Knowing when to stand your ground is a fine art. Digging in your heals at the wrong time will damage your credibility and impact. Yielding when you shouldn’t, makes for weak leadership and dangerous results.

When To Stand Your Ground

Sometimes it’s clear. If it’s unethical, immoral, illegal, or a violation of human rights, stand your ground, get support, and do what’s right. Jacquie Garton-Smith shares:

It’s reasonable to stand your ground when you have carefully, comprehensively and constructively evaluated the alternatives and it remains clearly the way to go. Good to demonstrate you’ve been open to the options even if the final decision is the same. And of course sometimes a better way becomes evident.

When to Back Down

Of course there are times when backing down is the obvious choice. Backing down makes sense when relationships trump the issue at hand, you need more data, or your team or experts know more. Sometimes ideas are worth giving a try even when you’re skeptical.

Stand Your Ground: Decision Points

But most of the time it’s more murky than that. It’s particularly challenging when your values conflict with company values. I asked some members of Lead Change Group to weigh in:

Consider Your Values – John E. Smith

It seems that two sets of values are in play here: The organization’s values and your personal beliefs about right and wrong. When both are threatened, the decision is easy; you should dig in and insist. You will do so with the full backing of your organization. I think the same can be said when your personal values are threatened, but not organizational values. In these cases, personal considerations around cost loom much larger. In other words, standing your ground may cost you and only the person who may lose can make the decision whether the risk to them is worth the fight. When organizational values are threatened, but not your personal values, I think this is more difficult. You might be called on because of your position to stand fast and fight about something which you have little or no investment. “Standing fast” implies some real passion, and you cannot fake passion at least in my experience.

Seek First to Understand – Chery Gegelman

Reflect a softer light of truth – visualize a candle – on (more complex) issues, giving people time to draw near, to listen more intently, to ponder, to understand and to come to their own conclusions. Being a beacon in a situation that requires a candle is viewed as an over reaction, often times people feel judged, they pull away and nothing changes. Being a candle in a situation that requires a beacon is an under-reaction and will not move people to action, so the risk grows. For more read here

Find the High Ground – Mike Henry Sr.

I catch myself trying to always find the highest ground to make my stand. The organization’s success may require me to do something a harder way than simply “my way.” Sometimes a key to standing my ground this time may be based on credibility I’ve earned from previous episodes. So I try to “stand my ground” when I believe I am on the highest ground and be a valuable team player in every other case.

Take the Long View – Susan Mazza

I think the key to making a good choice comes down to being able to distinguishing the difference between when you are standing for something that really matters for the future vs. digging your heels in to be right or prove a point in the moment.

Focus on Effective over Right – David Dye

Leaders who insist on being “right” sacrifice relationships and results. Standing your ground for principles and values is important – both for the organization and the individual. Standing your ground for the sake of preference or convenience often damages the relationships and fails to accomplish the needed results.

Unlikely Collaboration-The Secret to Success

Unlikely Collaboration: The Secret To Success

Have you ever been in a situation where you found yourself competing for work with a common client? Meaning your customer isn’t choosing your or them– but both of you. And you find yourself constantly looking for ways to get a bigger share of the pie. What if instead of just competing, you also looked for opportunities for a bit of strategic collaboration?

A Competitive Turned Collaborators Success Story

My last role as a Fortune 15 executive was leading our 10,000 person outsourced function. I managed the strategic partnerships with the BPO call center companies who took many of customer service calls. What a fantastic study in the power of culture. We had 6 competing companies and dozens of contact centers, essentially doing the same work. Some were thriving, some were struggling.

We thought, what if we could bring these leaders together to talk about their common leadership challenges and share best practices?

We considered all the important issues before suggesting we bring all the senior operations leaders together for an event.

It started with buy-in. I called each senior leader and had a candid conversation about their willingness to have candid conversations. Then we set clear ground rules. No talk of pricing or anything that might be considered proprietary.

The collaboration centered around questions such as:

  • How do you inspire call center reps to care deeply about customers?
  • What’s the secret to finding time to coach when the queue’s backed up?
  • How do you build better leadership in a young front-line team?
  • How are you leveraging technology to communicate more effectively?
  • What can my team do to be more helpful as the “client?”

The passion in the room was palpable. As common frustrations surfaced, competitors shared their leadership best practices, followed by brainstorming and collective planning. Everyone was focused on getting better results and doing the right thing for the customer.

“What if we had a week where we all concentrated on developing our leaders around this difficult challenge.”

“What if we produced inspiring videos to reinforce the vision each month?”

On the breaks, leaders would pull me aside and affirm the approach: “This is fantastic, it’s great to know it’s not just us; Everyone’s in the same boat; It’s awesome to collaborate on these challenges.”

And my favorite: “No other client of ours ever does this, they should.”

What is True Collaboration?

What made this work? What’s missing when collaborations go South?

Collaboration works when:
  • Vision is bigger than ego.
  • Everyone has something to gain.
  • The mission is clearly defined.
  • Parameters are established.
  • Leadership is shared.
  • No one keeps score.
  • People play by established ground rules.
  • Folks take time to get to know one another as people.
  • Strengths are leveraged.
  • It’s okay to put on the brakes as needed.
  • Dissent is encouraged and accepted.
  • Contributions are recognized.

How about you?

Have you had a great experience collaborating? What made it work?

See Also: The Secret to Innovative Partnerships

Unleashing Breakthrough Results

Many of the approaches we take to solving problems, do just that. Solve problems. That works, until the next problem comes along. To build long-term results, requires more. Unleashing your team’s potential leads to breakthrough results.

I’ve been intrigued by the unleashing approach described in the new white paper, Unleashing the Future of Work.

This highly collaborative methodology empowers teams to dig deeper for answers– working together to find synergistic solutions.

“The cornerstone of Unleashing™ is emphasizing the journey as an essential change and learning process rather than simply devising and implementing a solution. For it is through this journey that individuals learn and develop their ability to think strategically, collaborate and take action. This approach aims to engage and stimulate people as they go along, creating self-efficacy, empowerment and commitment in the individuals and teams. Its focus is both on the organisation as a whole and on the individuals.”

Unleashing Framework

The research-based unleashing approach, is closely aligned with the philosophical approach we’ve been discussing in our LGL community. For example:

  • “Purpose as basis for strategy” vs. “Shareholder value as basis for strategy” (and driving shareholder value in the process)
  • “Shared strategic direction” vs. “Strategic planning”
  • “Adaptive strategy execution” vs. “Strategy implementation”
  • “Learning through action” vs. “Classroom training”
  • “Process innovation” vs. “Process optimization”
  • “Mentoring, self-directed career development” vs. “Metrics-based performance management”

I asked white paper co-author, Therese Kinal, about the inspiration for their research:

“My co-founders Robert Thong, Corrina Kane and I realized that traditional approaches to Management weren’t working anymore and our industry was doing as much harm as it was good. In many organisations innovation was dead and employees had little or no understanding of their company’s strategy and they certainly didn’t feel personal ownership and excitement about making it happen. Companies had tried to solve this through structural changes, sending their people on leadership development training or hiring innovation firms to do it for them. Consultants were forcing through simplistic solutions to complex problems.”

If you’re looking for creative ways to unleash the powerful potential of your team, it’s worth a read. Share your comments and insights with the LGL community.