Leaders lead by example, by bringing people together and helping them to see the value in an objective and then encouraging
them to do everything they can to justify their spot on the team and to make their teammates proud
How do you define collaboration and where does it fit in your decision making process? Many of us tend to either overestimate what collaboration entails and may signify or underestimate its value and the benefits we can gain from collaborating with others.
Let’s start with what collaboration involves and the many ways it may be applicable to a decision you are considering or a project, on which you are working. In its simplest form, collaboration is merely the interaction and communication between people, initiated with the purpose of achieving a desired result. Typically, the desired result is a well-rounded and thoroughly thought out decision.
Defined in that way, it would seem perfectly logical and reasonable for you to seek out collaboration whenever and wherever necessary. Often times, however, you may find several reasons for not involving others. The reasons range from the belief that you may be imposing on someone by asking them to get involved in your matter to the worry that you may appear weak if you have to ask for someone else’s help.
How do you typically react when you are asked to give your opinion? I tend to take it as a compliment when someone asks me for an opinion or advice. For many of you, it is within your nature to want to be helpful. We are built to interact with others and to enjoy social lives. An important aspect of social behavior is discussion with others and the mutual sharing of ideas and views.
If you are the one who is asked for your opinion, you will almost always learn something from the collaboration as well, whether it is a new vantage point or a different perspective. Not only is it not an imposition when you ask others about what they think, it is usually a mutually rewarding experience.
For those of you who may worry that you would appear to be weak if you asked someone else for help, you could not be more mistaken. The best decision makers are the ones who realize that it is imperative to gain as much of an understanding of a matter or situation as is possible and applicable before they ultimately decide and act.
No matter how experienced you may be in your chosen field, you will never know all that there is to know. You will never have every experience there is to experience. While your colleague won’t either, including him or her in your decision-making process will add to your knowledge and increase your chances of making a more thorough choice. You will be much more likely to gain additional information and to learn something that you, otherwise, would not have thought about.
Asking for an opinion or view should never be confused with absolving yourself of the responsibility of making the decision. The best leaders know that they will go further toward the achievement of their goals, and those of their organization, by being inclusive rather than exclusive in their decision-making. Including additional thoughts and ideas is a big part of responsible decision-making and it does not, in any way, dilute the accountability of the person with the ultimate authority to make the decision.
For another perspective on the importance and value of collaboration, consider the difference in your level of engagement on a project that you helped define and for which you had input versus a project that was assigned to you without regard to your schedule or degree of interest. You will always be more vested in the successful outcome of the project that you are involved in from the beginning than in the one for which you had no say. If you realize the benefits of being asked to collaborate, why wouldn’t those around you realize those same benefits when you ask them to collaborate with you?
Interacting with others will also save you time and energy. If you were never able to rely on the assistance and experiences of others, you would clearly have a lot less free time and probably be worn out from constantly having to think of everything and to do everything that was necessary to get you through your day. Think about what it would be like if you had to write a procedure for everything that you did at work every day instead of being able to rely on time tested and established practices that were employed and perfected before you ever had to think about them.
Working with others is also much more rewarding than working on your own. When you are part of a team and you attain your goal, you still enjoy the individual feeling of victory and accomplishment, but you also get to experience the satisfaction and joy that can only be reached when you have stood side-by-side with others and achieved your desired result through a mutual commitment to a worthy cause or objective.
Demonstrating that you work well with others will also help you to advance in your career. You will send notice to your manager or boss that you are confident in your abilities, but open to other views and ideas.
Leaders do not lead by reminding people of their title and making them do what they want them to do. Leaders lead by example, by bringing people together and helping them to see the value in an objective and then encouraging them to do everything they can to justify their spot on the team and to make their teammates proud. If you are able to do that, you will demonstrate that you are capable of leading as well.
Lastly, collaborating can also provide you with some insurance. Sometimes, decisions don’t lead to the results that you expect despite your best efforts. In these cases, it never hurts to have had additional people weigh in and reach a consensus with you. This does not mean that you have someone else to blame or that you should attempt to shift responsibility. It does mean, however, that a decision and a course of action have more merit if you did everything that you could to be thorough and inclusive in your actions regardless of what ultimately occurs.
The only downside to collaborating isn’t really a downside at all. We’ve established that you will not appear as though you are weak-minded, nor will you be imposing, should you seek to collaborate. The only other worry would be that you will receive less of the recognition or credit than you otherwise would have if you would have chosen to go it alone. Remember that anyone who will pass judgment on the quality of your decisions and work has likely been in your shoes before and they realized long ago that they could not get to where they were going without seeking out reliable and talented people to associate with and to count on as part of their development.
Ask questions and seek opinions from those who you believe in and can learn from and you will soon be wiser, more enlightened, and further down the road than you otherwise would have been.
This article is part of Scott Arney's educational series, entitled The Serial Decision Maker.