How Collaborative Leadership Can Transform The Workplace
Business leaders are searching for progressive ways to break down barriers in the workplace. To have a dynamic team that embraces a company’s vision and makes it a reality, organizations must keep up with an evolving workforce that values transparency, collaboration, and professional growth over rigid and restrictive models of management.
These values must be reflected in an organization’s core principles if they want to inspire true innovation, which in turn, attracts and retains high-performers. Collaborative leadership challenges traditional workplace hierarchies and manifests meaningful inclusivity across an entire team for a productive and positive work environment.
What Is Collaborative Leadership?
According to Inc.com, a recent Interact/Harris poll revealed that out of 1,000 surveyed employees, 91% believed that their management lacked good communication skills.
Most organizations are used to what’s called a “top-down” management style. This is when a leader (or leadership team) makes a decision, which is then rolled down to the next tier of management and disseminated to the rest of the staff for execution.
From one perspective, this approach may be the most straightforward method of coming to effective resolutions sooner and will allow employees to focus solely on their assigned tasks rather than the process of decision-making.
Collaborative leadership, on the other hand, works in the opposite direction of this conventional system. Everyone on the team — from the CEO/founder(s)to those in the early years of their profession — works together to share information in a concerted effort to gather fresh ideas that produce the most effective outcomes.
The concept takes into account that each individual — regardless of rank or position within the company — brings a unique perspective that can reveal new ways of improving established processes in a more efficient manner. Here are some other characteristics of collaborative leadership:
- Equal Opportunity – Everyone has a say in the decision-making process and can actively contribute to the company’s goals and achievements.
- Reduced Silos – Collaborative leadership focuses on shattering the silos in the workplace, allowing groups and individual team members to come out of their respective bubbles and emerge in a unified capacity that brings together a collection of versatile expertise.
- Transparency – Information is shared openly and freely among everyone on the team, which helps create a culture of trust.
- Cross-functional – With everyone collaborating together, this atmosphere can set the team up for success with opportunities to learn from one another and become cross-trained in different areas.
The Power Of Collaborative Leadership
Collaborative leadership can transform the workplace by developing a supportive culture that empowers the team to step into their unique ability. By being an active participant in the way an organization creates solutions and essential processes for implementation, team members are encouraged to not only use but refine their skill sets, applying them in purposeful ways that boost their motivation and loyalty to the organization.
This approach can also help eliminate common symptoms of micromanaging, which can be a contributing factor to a toxic work environment.
When employees are consistently prescribed a particular way of doing their tasks without understanding the benefit — or have their concerns or ideas dismissed or ignored — they’ll fall into a cycle of indecision, unable to think outside the box, and only able to focus on the bare minimum.
Collaborative leadership avoids these pitfalls by creating possibilities, not limits:
1. Shared Purpose
When a team collaborates across all departments/functions, everyone can see the vision that the company holds for the future. Every role is essential. To unify a team, there must be a sense of shared purpose to drive the team forward together.
2. Effective Conflict Resolution
Disagreements and conflicts are an inevitable part of the workplace. However, practicing effective conflict resolution as a leader or mediator is considered one of the most nuanced skills to learn. According to a study done by CCP Global, research has shown that 85% of employees have dealt with some kind of workplace conflict. And approximately two-thirds of managers are uncomfortable dealing with employee conflicts according to the Harvard Business Review.
The way in which leadership addresses and resolves these issues makes the difference between a thriving workforce and a toxic work environment. Managers must be willing to listen to criticism of their own ideas, and at the same time, promote and inspire others to improve upon those ideas in a professional manner.
Through the fundamentals of collaborative leadership — teamwork, collective brainstorming, and open discussion — conflicts can be resolved fairly since a positive workplace culture empowers the employees to be versatile and use critical thinking.
3. Personal/Professional Growth
Individuals on a team are essentially given a platform to be more assertive and are encouraged to step outside their comfort zone, taking risks that allow them to step into their capabilities. This sharpens their communication skills and helps them form ideas about the direction of their career track.
4. Approachable Management
A survey conducted by OnePoll revealed that 6 in 10 employees don’t feel comfortable going to their boss if there is an issue. Collaborative leadership helps break down these barriers so that an employee can feel supported while sharing their thoughts, problems, or ideas rather than be intimidated by the people around them. When leaders use an authentic approach, it shows a layer of vulnerability. And by showing that the input from the rest of the team is vital to success, employees can start to feel comfortable, which motivates them to be at their best.
Being a strong advocate for the team’s professional growth can have a major influence on their morale and commitment to the company. Self-leaders take charge of their growth, education, and development as a leader in their particular space, but need to be in an environment that fosters this type of self-led action. 83% of employers state that it’s important to develop leaders at all levels according to GoRemotely.com.Collaborative leadership helps support this advancement in their team by using strategic communication about the value of ownership, initiative, and accountability. Individuals who feel empowered to think creatively and have the authority to make decisions can help cultivate an engaged workforce.
How To Demonstrate Being A Collaborative Leader
Collaborative leadership means encouraging new ways of working and thinking. This approach improves the lines of communication across the entire team and incentivizes them to discover their potential within the company. But being a leader or manager is more than just a title. It’s more than recognizing what strategies need to be in place for better results and providing direction— it’s about mentorship and inspiring others to see their strengths so they can perform at the highest level. Here are ways collaborative leaders can build a team that is solution-focused, aligned, and motivated to their best work.
- Build Trust – According to research by Tolero Solutions, 45% of people believe that lack of trust in leadership is the biggest issue in workplace performance. As with any relationship, once trust is broken, it can be extremely difficult — and costly — to fix. Cultivating trust in the workplace means giving the team as much stability as possible. If the team trusts each other, the more streamlined and resourceful the process will be. Productivity will be 50% higher (Source: Harvard Business Review) and decisions will be made with more confidence.
- Be Intentional With Transparency – An employee engagement survey conducted by TinyPulse showed that transparency is the number one factor contributing to employee happiness. When the team feels like they can rely on leadership to be transparent with their thought processes, limitations, and decision-making — even if that means displaying some mistakes made along the way — they’re more likely to respect their leadership and be more productive. Open communication that is displayed at the leadership level will have the rest of the team following suit.
- Create An Environment Of Psychological Safety – The team needs to feel safe in order to engage in thoughtful discussion without the consequence of shame or fear of reprimand. Data from Gallup suggests that only 3 in 10 employees feel that their opinions matter in the workplace. If employees arrive at the conclusion that there is no virtually no benefit in contributing, they’re more likely to stay quiet. This is especially true when they don’t feel like they don’t have any influence. This can manifest as awkward silences during meetings or little to no engagement during check-ins. The team needs to be supported and unified in order to be fully committed in their approach to work.
- Structure Workload Appropriately – Even with a top-notch team of A-players, it’s important to keep in mind the demands on the team’s time, especially now with the conditions the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on the workforce. According to Indeed.com, over 52% of survey participants reported feeling burnt out since the beginning of the pandemic, which was a 43% increase from a previous pre-Covid survey. An important aspect of being a collaborative leader is understanding your employee’s workload and prioritizing their well-being. If you start to notice slight changes in their productivity, attendance, or attentiveness, it’s usually a sign that an honest check-in is needed to offer support.
When collaboration happens naturally, everyone feels more productive and engaged. Collaborative leadership fosters a thriving work environment of self-leaders who are given tools to be successful.
Using this team-oriented method can help everyone grow into their roles and produce the best business-driven outcomes that pave the way for high-growth and achievement.