Leadership Qualities: Collaboration.


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Photos courtesy of  Randy Fath, Rawpixel, Nick Fewings, NESA by Makers, James Thomas and Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash. 

What makes you feel most empowered in the presence of a leader?  Probably when they ask for and show that they value your input and collaboration.

“Only when brilliant minds collide that new ideas, methodologies, process, and procedures are born” (Bit Tech Labs, 2018).  But, imagine organization heads presenting an inspiring vision to their team, then charging them to work together through various logistics and other processes to ensure that the goals are achieved.  But, they always fail to achieve their goals.  Why?  Because of the collaboration blind spot.  Based on research conducted at the Harvard Business School over 8 years on three global companies, and more than 120 interviews with managers and employees at 53 companies, the results show that people naturally guard their territory and minimize the threat of being irrelevant, losing status and/or resources (Kwan, 2019).  

Consider the following stats on collaboration yielded from a number of studies:

  • About 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as “very important”, yet only 18% of employees get this evaluated on their performance reviews (Queens University of Charlotte).
  • 33% of Millennials want collaborative workspaces (Mercer).
  • 31% of baby boomers (1946 – 1960s), 40% of Gen X (1960s to 1980s) and 49% of millennials (1980s to 2000s) support social tools for collaboration (Queens University).
  • 97% of employees and executives believe lack of alignment within a team impacts the outcome of a task or project (McKinsey).  (Bit Tech Labs, 2018; https://blog.bit.ai/collaboration-statistics/).


Photos courtesy of WordPress Media Library.   

Research continues to show that collaboration is key to achieving any goal, including producing good statistics.  The refreshed Code of Practice (launched by the UK Statistics Authority in February 2018) explicitly emphasizes the value of such collaboration.  For example,

  • Quality, when statistics producers work with experts to make methodological improvements (practice Q2.6), and
  • Value, when a comprehensive and coherent narrative is provided to users through statistics producers working with others to tell the full story (practice V3.5)   (UK Statistics Authority, 2019).

Additionally, a case study of the Scottish Funding Council’s College Leavers Destination Data is a great example of how collaboration improves research.  In the beginning, as the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) began reporting on leaver destinations the data quality was poor.  However, they were deliberate in building relationships with the quality management staff in colleges, who are one of the data providers for leaver destination data.  Now colleges were being seen as the users of the data, and so their needs were incorporated into the process.  Today, college quality management staff praise the SFC for being very helpful and responsive to their needs (UK Statistics Authority, 2019).

These studies and others continue to affirm the wisdom of the ages in, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22, NIV).

Stanford research discovered that collaboration is such a powerful key that just the mere perception of working collectively on a task can supercharge our performance.  Participants “primed to act collaboratively stuck at their task 64% longer than their solitary peers, whilst also reporting higher engagement levels, lower fatigue levels and a higher success rate” (Gaskel, 2017).  And, the impact remained for several weeks.  

So, we close as we began, acknowledging that collaboration is not easy as we instinctively guard our territory and minimize threat.  And, it is reflected in the economy.  Research on 60,000 responses from the World Values Survey showed a clear correlation between the wider economy and a belief that success is ‘zero-sum,’ meaning if I gain, you lose in equivalent measure, and the opposite holds true (https://www.forbes.com/sites/adigaskell/2017/06/22/new-study-finds-that-collaboration-drives-workplace-performance/#ffc2c153d025).  So, it is natural to focus on self.  

But, in a world where groundbreaking innovations and ideas are critical for advancement, leaders must be deliberate in creating cultures of collaboration.  The result will be increased creativity, increased productivity, a stronger sense of community, and improved problem-solving.  

Looking for more to strengthen your team?  See Be Prepared and For a Teacher’s Heart at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/KeishaAMitchellPhD  and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfPWaPCJ0vE  .

perry-grone-732606-unsplashPhoto courtesy of Perry Grone on Unsplash.

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