The potential of collaborative technology to energize businesses has received a lot of press. However the discussion about how leaders are to lead and manage in a new era of collaboration and technological possibility has received less attention. It’s an emerging field so there are many lessons still to be learned through trial and error over the coming months and years. Having said that smart operators are already beginning to adopt several key ideas. Below we share some of these emergent lessons. We hope they will help you to navigate your team during this time of change.
1. The Power Of Vision
If new collaborative technology offers unprecedented opportunities, it also presents new challenges. One strength of collaboration is that it can bring together a group of people with different interests, talents and abilities behind a common goal or project. It can utilize the skills of those in different business units or departments. This presents a problem for the old paradigm of management. The new complexity does not respond well to micro-management and requires a new tack. The emerging approach here is to lead through ‘vision’. When a team is too complex to control through traditional management methods, the smart leader directs by sharing a vision. Like a compass this shared purpose enables a collaborative team to navigate in the right direction. Vision is an even more powerful tool when team members feel that they have contributed to creating the shared purpose.
The great benefit of collaborative technology — and perhaps its most transformative property — is its ability to harness the skills and expertise of those outside your immediate department. This could mean working across various business units or it could mean collaborating with external partners or consultants. The diversity of experiences and expertise engendered by this approach can create a very fruitful environment.
It’s vitally important you avoid a silo mentality. A silo mentality at this stage can be the death of your collaborative project. If other team leaders refuse to share resources, ideas and people then your collaborative project will suffer significantly.
3. Organizational Change
Collaborative technology requires the participation of key stakeholders for its adoption. In the same way, collaborative leadership requires stakeholder participation. Adopting the collaborative approach is a form of organizational change, and this change requires the commitment, brain and energy of leaders in different segments of the business. That’s why it’s important to get the key stakeholders involved in the development process on the ground floor.
The job of the leader here is to bring these key players along, to share and create a vision with them. A shared purpose brings people together, harnesses their power and removes obstacles to success. In this way you can enact a real change of mentality across the company.
4. Conflict Management
A collaborative environment can be more complex than traditional management structures. There can be a more diverse set of team members with differing priorities. There can be multiple team leaders with competing interests. In this creative environment there will certainly be occasions where conflict can arise. The secret here is to build conflict-handling into your culture.
For example you can have a prior discussion with team members about their own likely conflict areas. Encourage them to think about how their own personalities are likely to work in this new context. In this case, forewarned is fore-armed, and if any conflict does come up then you will already be prepared to deal with it before it becomes a real problem.
5. Be A Connector
One of the most important skills of any manager who utilizes collaborative technology is the ability to connect people. In this new environment it’s crucial to be able to connect people and keep them working happily together.
To do this successfully requires that the manager have a very subtle appreciation for the way different kinds of people interact with each other. It requires a gentle touch not a heavy hand. The manager who ignores the ‘human element’ does so at their own risk.
On the contrary, a brilliant connector can make inspired connections. A great connector who really understands the human element can bring people together in combinations where their differing talents and human attributes can really spark from each other. This is the real power of collaboration.