Win More Through Collaboration

Women are natural collaborators.

To collaborate literally means to work together. A second definition refers to working with an enemy, which emerged during World War II, and collaboration got a bad name. I think this is the frame of reference a lot of people have when they are told they need to collaborate.

Our survival instincts kick in and we develop a natural protection for our teams, our ideas and our processes. However, why should we collaborate? Here are a few reasons you can benefit from collaborating with others:

–       Extend your reach

–       Hone your influence skills

–       Develop relationships

–       Build trust

–       Create better solutions

–       Build your reputation

One of the biggest wins in my career relied heavily on collaboration. I was head of business development for a creative agency. When I received the call to participate in an agency review for a large account, the whole company was excited. It was just the type of company we wanted in our portfolio.

The review process was demanding and required our best thinking and talent. Our competition was world-class and we were the ones that had to step up. Had I tried to hold onto the process and direct the teams on what to do, there may not have been a story to tell.

Because we were a small company, everyone from the owners to the bookkeeper had a role in this business development opportunity. The designers and researchers played a central role in developing the strategy that ultimately helped us win the largest account in the history of the company.

My role during that whole process was, as I like to describe it, more like an orchestra conductor. I worked to bring out everyone’s best and brightest ideas to create the multiple presentations we gave during the agency review process. I relied on my strategic thinking to ask questions of the team to help them solve the client’s problem and to position our company as the best one for the job.

However, during the process, I constantly stayed in communication with all the team members, interacting with each one of them to make sure our pitch was rock solid. The result was a solution that ultimately changed the way our client’s industry marketed to consumers.

Our ability to collaborate and bring all the ideas together created miraculous results for us. A few years later, I left that company and found myself in a company culture that was extremely competitive and judgmental where people focused on promoting their own ideas and playing what appeared to me to be an adult version of “King of the Hill.” I didn’t stay long at that company as I didn’t like being in such a highly competitive environment.

Bottom line, if you can learn to collaborate effectively, you will be more successful as a leader. To improve your collaboration skills try these tips:

–       Ask great questions

–       Be open to new ideas

–       Set your ego aside

–       Study leaders like orchestra conductors or team coaches to understand how to foster group collaboration

You can also learn some tips from Software Advice‘s article on these five women executives who have risen to executive ranks by using collaborative and questioning skills.

For a complimentary consultation on your leadership challenges and opportunities, contact me and I will connect with you to schedule a phone appointment.

Whether it is mentoring people to lead more effectively, improve their own performance or step into what is next, Kathy Garland is passionate about guiding leaders to achieve business goals and reach their highest potential.

© 2014 Kathy Garland