Empowerment: The Key to Creating a Collaborative Culture

Effective leaders learn early in their careers that they can’t manage whole projects singlehandedly. They need an empowered team working collaboratively to achieve goals. In our new book, Collaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster, my coauthors Jane Ripley, Eunice-Parisi Carew, and I explain the importance of empowering yourself as a leader and building collaboration by empowering your team.

In past blogs, I described the first four elements of the UNITE acronym that we developed to help describe what it takes to build a collaborative culture: Utilize differences; Nurture safety and trust; Involve others in crafting a clear purpose, values, and goals; and Talk Openly. Today I want to share more about the fifth element—Empower yourself and others.

When I think of a leader trying to go it alone, I imagine a crew team with only one oar in the water. It isn’t hard to realize that the boat isn’t going to get very far with only one person rowing. But, when all oars are in the water and team members are working together, the boat seems to glide over the water without effort. The same is true when a leader tries to manage all aspects of a project. Doing it alone just isn’t efficient. Having an empowered team take initiative and accept responsibility is the most effective way to not only reach goals but exceed them.

It is important to remember that a collaborative leader must still set work direction, resolve conflicts, and remove obstacles. However, with an empowered team the role of leader is to coach the team members and support collaboration. Leader and team members work together with a unified vision, complete trust in each other, and open communication in a truly collaborative culture.

How well do you think you are empowering yourself and your team? Ask yourself these questions.

  1. Do I continually work to develop my competence?
  2. Do I feel empowered to give my opinions during idea sessions, even if I disagree?
  3. Do I actively build and share my network with others?
  4. Do I share my skills and knowledge with other departments?
  5. Do I believe my work is important to the organization?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, you probably feel empowered yourself and serve as a role model for your team members to become empowered, too. If you answered no to any of the questions, think about what you can do to change your behavior. Encourage your direct reports to collaborate not only with team members, but also with others in the organization. I guarantee you’ll see people start to share knowledge, generate new ideas, and reach higher levels of performance—all in a culture of collaboration.

Collaboration Begins with You Book coverTo learn more about Collaboration Begins With You: Be a Silo Buster, visit the book homepage where you can download the first chapter.

The Collaborative Way to Create a Clear Purpose, Values, and Goals

I’ve always said that leadership is about going somewhere—and a big part of that is working with your people to create a clear purpose, values, and goals. This is a key element in the collaborative process we describe, using the acronym UNITE, in my latest book with my coauthors Jane Ripley and Eunice Parisi-Carew, Collaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster.

As a reminder, UNITE represents the five elements every person must adopt if they want to create a culture of collaboration in their workplace: Utilize differences; Nurture safety and trust; Involve others in crafting a clear purpose, values, and goals; Talk openly; and Empower yourself and others. Today we will take a closer look at the importance of Involving others in the process of creating a clear purpose, values and goals. To clarify, a clear shared purpose galvanizes action, values guide behaviors, and goals focus energy.

It is the responsibility of the leader to ensure that the vision and direction are clear, but it is essential to get feedback from everyone when writing the purpose statement, operating values, and strategic goals. If these decisions are made by executives and imposed on the group in a top-down implementation, people won’t be wholly supportive. When everyone has input there is greater support and buy-in because each person has a stake in the outcome. Involving people in these decisions builds their commitment to the cause—whether it is at the corporate, department, or team level.

Once the purpose statement is created, team members need to agree on values and rank them in order of importance. This is a critical step because sometimes values can be in conflict with each other. For example, let’s say your values are integrity, relationships, success, and creativity, ranked in that order. Your team has come up with a very creative idea, but implementing it would be cost prohibitive and could put the company at financial risk. Since success is ranked before creativity, the project would be a no-go—that is, unless the team can be creative enough to develop a way to make the project a less expensive undertaking.

The last task is to agree upon three or four key goals that clearly state what is expected of the team. Some leaders make the mistake of thinking that when the purpose and values are clear, people will understand what they need to do. But that is a dangerous assumption to make. Don’t leave anything to chance. Clear goals are necessary to ensure everyone is moving in the same direction for the same reasons.

As a leader, how well do you think you involve others in crafting a clear purpose, values and goals? Ask yourself these questions.

  1. Is my team committed to a shared purpose?
  2. Do I know the purpose of our project and why it is important?
  3. Do I hold myself and others accountable for adhering to our values?
  4. Do I check decisions against our stated values?
  5. Do I hold myself and others accountable for project outcomes?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, you are probably a very collaborative leader. Use this checklist as a guide to make sure you are focused on continual improvement and keeping your team involved.

Collaboration Begins with You Book coverTo learn more about Collaboration Begins With You: Be a Silo Buster, visit the book homepage where you can download the first chapter.

Improve Collaboration with a Safe and Trusting Culture

As a leader, do you create a safe and trusting environment where your people can express concerns and share information freely? That might be a difficult question for some of you to answer. In our new book, Collaboration Begins With You: Be a Silo Buster, my coauthors Jane Ripley and Eunice Parisi-Carew and I describe how to build trust and take responsibility for creating a culture of collaboration.

In the previous post I introduced the UNITE acronym to describe the five elements that every person must adopt to make collaboration a part of the corporate culture. We encourage everyone to Utilize differences; Nurture safety and trust; Involve others in crafting a clear purpose, values, and goals; Talk openly; and Empower themselves and others. I wrote about Utilizing differences in the last post and this time I want to share more about how to Nurture safety and trust.

The best way to start is by being a role model for the behavior you want to see in others. Share your own knowledge openly and encourage others to speak freely without fear of judgment. Welcome people’s ideas and truly give them consideration before making a decision. Give and receive feedback without judgment and be accessible, authentic, and dependable.

To build trust with your team, view mistakes and failures as learning opportunities and discuss them openly. If you punish people for making mistakes, they will learn quickly to cover them up and you’ll miss important opportunities to avoid future mishaps. I’ve found that some of the greatest learning moments happen when mistakes are shared and discussed. Encouraging these kinds of discussions will lead to smoother processes, improved communication, and innovative thinking.

To help people feel safe in their working environment, be transparent when making decisions. Make sure people know their role and what a good job looks like, and give them freedom to experiment. If people know what is expected of them and the boundaries they can operate in, they will flourish.

Rate yourself as a leader who Nurtures safety and trust by asking yourself these questions.

  1. Do I encourage people to speak their mind?
  2. Do I consider all ideas before decisions are made?
  3. Do I share knowledge freely?
  4. Do I view mistakes as learning opportunities?
  5. Am I clear with others about what I expect?

If you answered yes to most of the questions, you probably have created a safe and trusting environment for your people. But pay attention to where you answered no so that you can continue to build a strong culture of collaboration, because as the book title says—collaboration begins with you.

Collaboration Begins with You Book coverTo learn more about Collaboration Begins With You: Be a Silo Buster, visit the book homepage where you can download the first chapter.

Breaking Down Silos for a Stronger Organization

It’s no secret that collaboration creates high performing teams and organizations, yet leaders in some companies still struggle to get people to work together instead of protecting their silos. In our new book Collaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster, my coauthors Jane Ripley, Eunice Parisi-Carew, and I describe how you can break down silos and bring people together to achieve fabulous results at every level in your organization.

As the title suggests, we believe that collaboration is the responsibility of every single person. Although it’s up to the leader to declare and introduce a culture of collaboration, it is up to each individual to promote and preserve it.

Silos exist when people who are more interested in organizational hierarchy want to protect resources and information as sources of power. But in today’s diverse, global environment, collaboration is the key to communication, innovation, and success. We must all be silo busters.

Establishing a culture of collaboration isn’t an overnight fix—it requires a completely new mindset. We call it the inside-out mindset of Heart, Head, and Hands. The Heart aspect refers to who you really are as a collaborator—your intentions and character. The Head aspect is about your beliefs and attitudes about collaboration. The Hands aspect relates to what you do—your actions and behaviors. People with this mindset understand and live by the statement None of us is as smart as all of us.

From this inside-out mindset, five factors are generated that help build a strong culture of collaboration. We created the UNITE acronym to make these factors easier to remember. Everyone must be vigilant about Utilizing differences; Nurturing safety and trust; Involving others in crafting a clear purpose, values, and goals; Talking openly; and Empowering themselves and others.

I’ll explain these concepts in detail in future posts. In the meantime, remember that collaboration begins with you—and it can begin today!

Editor’s Note: Collaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster will be released October 12. Place your pre-order at www.Amazon.com.


Re-Direct the Behavior, Not the Person

on the roadAs a manager—or a parent, coach, or any other kind of leader—you want to get rid of bad behavior but keep the good person. To do this, you must give feedback frequently—this goes for catching people doing things right as well as noticing mistakes or poor performance. It makes no sense for a manager to store up observations of poor behavior and present them all at once at the end of a project or during a performance review. Not only would this be frustrating for the manager, it would also put the person receiving the feedback on the defensive.

Re-directing behavior as soon as possible allows the manager to deal with one behavior at a time. It also allows the other person to focus on constructive feedback and how to correct the problem, instead of being overwhelmed with information about numerous mistakes or misbehaviors that happened long ago.

For the manager, the most important part of the re-direct is remembering to build people up, not tear them down. Confirm the facts, review the goal, and explain specifically how the behavior didn’t support the goal. End the re-direct with a praising: this lets the person know they are better than their mistake. A re-direct should never be perceived as a personal attack. You want the person to be aware of and concerned about what they did, not feel mistreated.

Like all of the Three Secrets Spencer Johnson and I share in our book, The New One Minute Manager, the One Minute Re-Direct takes about a minute and can be a great learning moment for both the manager and the direct report. It allows them to refocus on the goal and work together to strategize how to align performance with the desired outcome. Working collaboratively also improves the relationship by building trust and improving communication.

One Minute Re-Directs are the perfect way to provide feedback and coach people to peak performance. Remember, the best minute of the day is the one you invest in your people.