Enabling Collaboration

IDT Enabling Collaboration

Written by Simon Carter

May 7, 2021

Collaboration is just the way things are done around here…

Collaboration flourishes on subtle, everyday examples that sub-consciously create an environment where eyes are on collective success, where recognising information that might be useful to others is instinctive, and sharing it is part of natural dialogue.  

The simple existence of collaborative tools and processes is rarely enough, especially if internal rivalries or individualism prevail. The essence of effective collaboration is a culture that gives credit for contribution to common goals and the bigger picture, plus being inside each other’s minds.   It is built on individuals working together to create a cohesive team, similar to jigsaw pieces fitting together to create a complete picture.   

Everyone knows their role…

Collaboration and awareness go hand in hand, which starts with being clear about what part each person has to play – how the team fits together and why it’s built that way. Action, or inaction, in one corner of the business causes an effect in another with a consequence for the business as a whole.

Knowing your role involves an appreciation of how you directly and indirectly have a wider bearing on colleagues and business effectiveness. When you understand how your job, or department, makes a difference and to whom, and see its links to the overall purpose, your perspective is elevated from a list of tasks to an outward facing, well networked, key component of the larger overall business.

And everyone, wherever you sit, has a unique viewpoint on a slice of the operation. It may give you game-changing insights on a process or routine, you may be first to spot an emerging trend or shifting position in those you deal with at the coalface, or you may have knowledge that takes on new relevance as business priorities realign. Whether your role is internal or external focused, your unique and personal take on what you see can make that difference and could be a game-changer, or at least a positive influence.

But job descriptions and set objectives rarely give prominence to the importance of drawing attention to these valuable bits of information, it is left as something implicit sitting somewhere between conscience and culture.

So there has to be the motivation and willingness to contribute, to look out for others and pass on what you see. You have to care and feel that it is worth it, and that’s easier if there is a sense of reciprocity, appreciation and value of all individuals. 

Leaders lead the way…

Organisational behaviours radiate from the top.

People notice when leaders make time to engage, respond, connect and enable, and it is powerful endorsement if they are seen to give credit to people for doing the same.

When management routinely shares what is on their minds, people feel included. They have a strategic context with which to engage, an open explanation of why priorities are where they are, and the opportunity to think with decision-makers rather than react to directives. Confidence and trust grow all round, the environment encourages team play.

Individuals soon work out whether their leaders are outward-facing or self-absorbed, and they form their own perceptions of who the system rewards and how. They sense whether departments are being driven to collaborate or compete, and whether the reality behind a common vision translates into ‘give and take’ at the top.

The basics may well be in place: strategic clarity, logical structures, complementary functions, workable processes, and investment in personal development. But these do not automatically break down to each individual equally. 

It takes example, and leaders lead the way.    

But it doesn’t mean going out of your way…

There is opportunity to enrich the two-way flow of information through existing management and team meetings, just by reviewing their style, format and how they are facilitated – broadening general awareness while cultivating a level of dialogue that seeps into informal networks. 

And putting emphasis on collaboration at every level is effort well spent; the time invested in communication, coordination and teamwork is recouped many times over through a reduction in friction, frustration and duplication, and increased agility. 

At the same time, interaction, collective thinking, and everyone’s instinct for what is critical to the business are all energised. In time, collaboration becomes your dna, and effortless… 

…just people working together to achieve something, and ‘just the way things are done around here’. 

Are there ways that you could personally engage more collaboratively that could deliver a wider benefit for your organisation?


Simon Carter is an experienced board member and a Consultant with IDT, a collective of experienced board members appointed to client boards to support their needs and help to drive success. Appointed as NEDs, they not only bring both their own expertise but also that of the wider IDT team, with whom they share and receive knowledge for personal and client benefit. For information about our services visit our website at www.independentdirectorsandtrustees.co.uk or contact us at info@directorsandtrustees.co.uk

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