Friday, September 30, 2011

The Best Leaders Are Strong Collaborators

If you're in a leadership position, you know that performing well and achieving your goals are important for career advancement. However, leaders who focus only on their own job performance are out of step with today's team-centered business environment.

You can be the most brilliant manager in the room, but if you fail to collaborate with others, the success you're striving for may elude you. It's in your best interests to be a team player at every stage of your career.

Leaders Benefit From Collaboration

In most organizations, a successful leader will be defined as one who works well with others. Collaborative managers are more sought after to lead projects, and are often tapped for advancement. Here's why:

  • Collaborative leaders are skilled at building strong, effective teams that solve problems and advance an organization's goals.
  • They have access to more great ideas because they solicit them.
  • Collaborative team leaders complete more projects successfully.

Encouraging collaboration in your teams – and being collaborative yourself – is the only way to go. Changing your leadership approach is not difficult, and the rewards are well worth the effort, as collaboration can make leading projects easier and more successful.

How Leaders Can Encourage Collaboration

Do you have a tendency to jump in and make all of your team's decisions? While this approach may seem easier than the sometimes-messy dynamics of group problem solving, it's best to avoid it.

When you need to be involved in every decision, three things can happen:

  1. You send a signal that you are not a collaborator, so your team becomes disengaged.
  2. Your team misses out on the chance to learn and grow.
  3. You effectively tell your team that their ideas are not valued.

Rather than practicing this productivity-killing exercise, collaborative leaders involve team members in decision making. Effective leaders know their job is to make sound, strategic business decisions – and to help their team make good decisions, too.

Embracing a variety of skills is another way to build a collaborative team. Complex projects require the talents of everyone involved, but getting a disparate team to focus on one goal can be tricky. Involving your entire team in setting project goals encourages them to work together and support each other in order to achieve their objectives.

Three Benefits of Working Well With Others

Becoming a collaborative leader will help you perform at your best in today's business environment. It will also lead to a host of other benefits, including:

  1. Delegation is easier. Spending time with your team gives you the opportunity to know them as individuals. You'll learn each person's strengths, so delegating is easier and more effective. Assigning a task to the team member who can best handle it saves time and makes every project more successful. 
  2. You build a stronger team. Acknowledging individual contributions and soliciting ideas from all are essential to building a strong team. When your team knows their talents are appreciated and contributions are valued, they'll be motivated to excel. 
  3. You'll see improved outcomes. Which team do you think is better positioned to achieve objectives: a solid, collaborative team, working together toward the same goals? Or a weak, disjointed group of individuals who feel undervalued and unfocused? Collaborative leaders know that their team is their strength. They realize they cannot possibly know how to quickly and effectively solve the multitude of problems a project may pose without experienced team members. Building a strong relationship with your team will make it easier to create solutions when faced with tough challenges.

If You Want To Be a Great Leader, Be a Great Collaborator

Great leaders recognize that most people are not interested in just sitting on the sidelines. They know their teams want to be involved, help solve problems, feel their ideas are valued, and make a meaningful impact.

In today's competitive business environment, leaders must embrace different perspectives, focus outward, and create a shared vision. Leaders who emphasize the success of the entire team – instead of their own achievements – are much more likely to see success in their careers.

Thanks to Mary Jo Asmus / Aspire-CS

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