We have all heard that the key to becoming a successful business is effective communication and collaboration, but do we really know what that means?
Unfortunately for many business leaders, they believe they do. But the reality is they actually struggle with the concept.
Back in 2013, the CEO of Yahoo! announced via memo that employees would no longer be able to work remotely and must come back into the office from Monday through Friday. Revoking the remote environment was done under the assumption that getting employees back in the office would increase collaboration and company culture.
However, the plan backfired. Instead of it boosting morale, employees felt pressure to either quit if they wanted to continue working remotely or relocate if they wanted to keep their job. As a result, the entire company suffered due to its leadership’s poor communication technique.
The thing about communication and collaboration is that they are closely intertwined — you cannot have one without the other. To build a stronger team and an overall stronger company, business leaders need to begin with fostering a culture of effective communication. Once you have communication, you are more likely to build the trust that allows collaboration to thrive.
There are many challenges that affect efficient teamwork: the absence of team identity, inability to resolve conflicts, lack of participation, lack of creativity, difficulty making decisions, and the unwillingness or inability to consider alternative ideas or approaches. When you break these challenges down to their building blocks, they all tend to stem from one core weakness: the inability to communicate and do so effectively.
Communicating involves far more than just informing others. This is a concept that many business leaders tend to misunderstand. To inform is to be static, where information is passed along from one person to another without much interaction. It is a one-way conversation.
On the other hand, effective communication flows in both directions as a dynamic, two-way conversation. It leads to enhanced engagement as you hear as much as you speak. Teams that foster a culture of effective communication receive different perspectives, gain alternative answers to obstacles, and can make better decisions that lead to better results.
As a team leader, it is your responsibility to ensure that all perspectives of your team are heard and considered. When you do this, your team will feel as though they have been listened to and be more inclined to offer up ideas. This creates a stronger and more engaged unit that can then build a bridge to a world of positive disruption from the inside out.
Many organizations fail to differentiate between collaboration and cooperation. These two things are drastically different.
Cooperation, whether it be by a business leader or an entry-level employee, is actually a principle based on scarcity. People cooperate because they have to, because they see themselves as a lone individual who needs to defend their share of the economic pie instead of as a part of a unified whole who all benefit from decisions made.
While cooperation is a lonely environment that lacks team identity, collaboration is a principle based in abundance. People collaborate because they want to, not because they have to, and because they see the opportunity a leader sees. They understand that by working together as a team, they can create a bigger economic pie that benefits all. To collaborate is to be inclusive and expansive.
Is putting the focus on collaboration as opposed to cooperation difficult? It can be, but it is all tied to effective communication. When you are simply informing, you are limiting interaction to being one-sided. Yahoo! telling employees to come back to the office “or else” without any alternative perspective is making them cooperate and thus leading them to believe there is no team mentality there.
But when you are communicating, you are encouraging a collaborative environment where everyone is working toward the same end that will lead to abundance for all. Yahoo! giving employees the option to stay remote if, based on research, their productivity was through the roof would only lead to innovation and progress for their department and the organization overall.
With effective communication that leads to collaboration, the benefits can and will go beyond the department, the organization, or even the industry. Believe it or not, you can and should collaborate with those whom you perceive to be your competition as well!
With powerful strategic alliances come pooled resources, shared skill, and creativity for either greater profit for all or for the greater good. This makes your organization move into a realm of significance rather than simple success, a mindset that gives you longevity.
We often see organizations and brands coming together to form new products and services to bring to the marketplace. Frito-Lay and Taco Bell formed the Doritos Locos Taco in 2012. Taco Bell hired 15,000 employees just to keep up with demand for that specific product! Even GM and Ford are currently collaborating to bring a new automated transmission for increased vehicle performance and fuel economy to the marketplace.
Rooted in more than just financial gain, collaboration efforts can also be focused on the greater good of society. During the coronavirus pandemic, Google and Apple joined forces to produce contact-tracing technology that notifies users when they have been in contact with someone who has been infected with COVID-19, in an effort to reduce exposure risk.
While typically, businesses are in fierce competition with others in their industry, protecting their vested interests, their customers, and their market share, it is important to evaluate them for not just how you can stay ahead of the game, but also for how you can benefit from strategic collaboration and working together.
Whether you are trying to better communicate and collaborate with team members internally or outside of your industry, it is always important to lead by example. Set your tone as an active listener. Use your body language, your tone of voice, and your words appropriately. Ask for input, ask for ideas, and encourage discussion. Also, do not be afraid to ask for contradictory opinions.
Once the communication channels are open, collaboration will inevitably follow, and there will be so much room for innovation with a united Futureview®!
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurists on global trends and innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus in the highest demand as a speaker. He is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies, helping them to accelerate innovation and results by develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. His client list includes companies such as Microsoft, GE, American Express, Google, Deloitte, Procter & Gamble, Honda, and IBM. He is the author of seven books, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller Flash Foresight, and his latest book The Anticipatory Organization. He is a featured writer with millions of monthly readers on the topics of innovation, change and the future and has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Wired, CNBC, and Huffington Post to name a few. He has been the featured subject of several PBS television specials and has appeared on programs such as CNN, Fox Business, and Bloomberg, and is quoted in a variety of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Fortune, and Forbes. He has founded six businesses, four of which were national leaders in the United States in the first year. He is the CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients profit from technological, social and business forces that are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. In 1983 he became the first and only futurist to accurately identify the twenty technologies that would become the driving force of business and economic change for decades to come. He also linked exponential computing advances to economic value creation. His specialties are technology-driven trends, strategic innovation, strategic advising and planning, business keynote presentations.