• Nicki

Stop! Collaborate and listen!

Peoplee's back with a brand new blog post. And you guessed it, we are talking about collaboration.

I wrote the title to this blog while chairing a virtual interdepartmental management forum for a technology company that has a diverse team of leaders across multiple countries.

I have been involved in this forum for a number of years, and actually designed it myself to address a growing fracture between the business units, and an escalating 'us vs them' mentality that was cropping up between teams and managers.

Initially, the forum was simply designed to be a non-confrontational environment in which the leaders could develop positive relationships, from which productive collaboration and innovation could begin to grow.

Did it work? Absolutely! 12 months into the exercise, the company had a cohesive, close-knit group of leaders who worked together to achieve goals, resolve problems and innovate. They also role modelled this behaviour to their teams, which allowed entire business units to work collaboratively in the best interests of the company.

What were the key factors in this forum actually working?

  1. No bosses allowed. This team of leaders needed to feel that this forum was a safe space where they could be vulnerable and learn from each other as peers without their senior executives being involved.

  2. What is said in the group, stays in the group. Further to point 1 above, this forum really needed to be a safe space for the leaders to be vulnerable and open, without fear of any external negativity or feedback.

  3. Be vulnerable. While we spoke about 'wins' and achievements in the forum, each leader was expected to come to the table with an unresolved issue, or an area of opportunity... Something that wasn't going well for them, or that they needed support with. Vulnerability was essential in dropping those walls and leaning on other leaders for support and mentoring.

  4. Prioritise. The leaders were asked to prioritise the forum. Keep the meeting request sacred in their diaries, and tune out all unnecessary distractions.

Today, looking at the team on my screen (even though some had left, and some new members had joined) I couldn't help but be struck by the microcosm of collaborative culture we had created, and how that had cascaded through to all areas of the business over time. We spend the forum talking about a win we'd had over the past month, and something that wasn't going so well for us. The amount of valuable information that was shared, and shoulders (and experiences) offered to those having a tough time, was sobering and heart-warming.

Collaboration between departments isn't some pipe-dream that can only happen if you spend loads of money on team building courses, or expensive leadership training. It's as simple as providing the opportunity, the space and the trust.

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