People’s roles in the workplace are becoming increasingly specialized. Collaboration helps businesses make the most of everyone’s strengths.

Collaboration helps organizations make the most of everyone’s skills and talents.

Collaboration helps solve problems, increases team cohesion, and helps people learn from each other. It often makes processes more efficient by tapping into the unique skills of multiple people. It’s more than just cooperating or working together in an agreeable manner. Collaboration is more deliberate and directed and is often set up to achieve specific goals.

How a leader behaves can facilitate or undermine collaboration. In fact, the ability to facilitate effective collaboration should be considered as one of the key components of leadership. The following are five ways that leaders may unintentionally undermine collaboration, ultimately hampering productivity and team effectiveness.

1. Communicating Poorly

Leaders who allow people to “silo” information or who communicate with one team member and expect them to spread the word among the team prevent teams from having the information they need. Likewise, leaders who are overly redundant, sending emails and memos and calling about the same issue can slow teamwork. Communicate clearly, concisely, and with the whole team so everyone stays on the same page.

2. Saying One Thing and Doing Something Else

One of the worst things that leaders can do is to claim to value everyone’s input and then make unilateral decisions. A corollary is a leader who encourages collaboration but refuses to participate in any way in the collaborative process. Transparency, honesty, and follow-through are essential leadership practices in a collaborative environment.

3. Listening Selectively

Leaders who only “listen” to what they want to hear, or who only listen to input from senior team members not only quash morale, they may miss out on some valuable insights. You never know who will have a great solution to a problem, or whose suggestion might make the collaboration process better. Intelligent leaders listen to all collaborators.

Leaders know that excellent communication means listening as well as talking.

4. Using Controlling Behavior

Sometimes leaders set up a collaborative environment and then proceed to control every aspect of it. Giving up control can be difficult for some leaders, but in a collaborative environment, it is necessary to dispense with some control. You’re still the leader and can still exercise control when necessary. But you have to let the collaborative process flow, even if there is some trial and error involved at first.

5. Doing an End Run Around Collaboration

Picture a collaborative team working on a new design. They’ve done all the calculations, but wisely decide to let the calculations “rest” over the weekend so they can review them on Monday with fresh eyes. What do you think happens to the collaborative spirit when the leader swoops in on Friday afternoon and insists on submitting the calculations in an attempt to “get it done?” Such actions can instantly subvert collaborative spirit.

Today’s leaders aren’t typically the authoritarians that leaders may have been in previous generations. Businesses have learned the value of collaboration for making the best use of people’s individual talents, and leaders who intentionally or unintentionally subvert collaboration ultimately hurt the team and the business.

Leadership coaching can help leaders to strengthen behaviors that encourage and improve collaboration, as long as those leaders are willing to take an honest look at themselves and potentially give up some control. Leadership coaches frequently work with clients on skills like communication, delegation, and conflict resolution – all of which are immensely valuable in the collaborative workplace.

For collaboration to thrive, leadership must behave in ways that encourage it to thrive, neither abdicating control nor doubling down on control. It’s a fine line but knowing how to enable productive collaboration is one of the most important components of leadership today. Leadership coaching is all about helping leaders reach their full potential so that their organizations can meet and exceed goals.


Back to blog