Beyond Silos Series – Improving collaboration through initiatives

What better way to foster collaboration than to bring together representatives from various business sectors, fields, hierarchical levels or sites around a project or common initiative? Agreed. Unfortunately, the reality at ground level is too often very different.

People move forward on an initiative, but everyone comes to the table with their own agenda. What could have been an amazing collaborative opportunity turns into open confrontation.  “You don’t understand.” “This is unacceptable.” “It won’t work in this environment. We’re different.” “Absolutely not. Over my dead body.”

Imagine if the players of the National Hockey League getting ready for an All-Star game continued to wear their team jersey instead of donning, for example, the Western division one. A Boston Bruins might want to check his Habs teammate into the boards instead of focusing on the common goal of winning the match against the Eastern Division. You can agree it would not make sense. Yet similar behaviors are commonplace in our organizations.

As a plant manager once told me: “While we’re fighting amongst ourselves, our competitors are rolling on the floor laughing.”

After having been involved in dozens of change initiatives, my findings confirm that many of them are unsuccessful because people do not know how to collaborate. We firmly stand our ground. We define are issues in black and white. “If you’re not for me, you’re against me.”

It is time, and even urgent, that we learn to become effective collaborators. This means, for example, that we need to learn how to listen; how to stop blaming one another; how to no longer look for guilty parties but rather for solutions; how to explore someone else’s world; how to calmly present a point of view; how to influence respectfully; how to remain focused on a common goal; and how to be open to explore new avenues.

The world is going too fast and has become too complex. We no longer have the luxury of fighting among ourselves at the expense of our common interest. I sincerely believe that the future belongs to leaders who are true facilitators and collaborators. Are you one of them?

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