Collaborative Cultures Produce Results

Most leaders today understand that in order for your organization to thrive, you need a collaborative culture. Collaborative cultures have been shown to increase workplace performance as well as increase innovation, which is essential for succeeding in today’s highly competitive marketplace. Organizations with collaborative cultures also see:  

  • Increased employee engagement and sense of purpose 
  • Greater employee retention
  • Greater ability to attract high-quality talent
  • Less in-fighting and unproductive conflict

It’s clear that a collaborative culture will help your organization succeed, but how do you go about creating one?

What Is a Collaborative Culture?

What exactly does a collaborative culture look like? Just because you see collaboration going on around you, and just because you feel like you can collaborate with others, doesn’t mean you have a collaborative culture. A collaborative culture is one where everyone feels like they can collaborate, where collaboration is a consistent and intentional component of the way people in your organization work together. 

How Do You Create a Collaborative Culture?

No matter how clear you are about the benefits of having a collaborative culture, it won’t just appear on its own. You don’t get a collaborative culture for free; you have to grow one–a lot like growing a garden. You have to plant the seeds of a collaborative culture and care for it so that, eventually, it will take on a life of its own and become your organization’s culture. 

How can you, as a leader, help grow a collaborative culture? The first step is finding the right seeds and planting them. The seeds are the blueprint for how you’re going to work together. They’re more than just a statement of your values or mission–though they have to be consistent with your values and mission. These seeds have to be a concrete roadmap for how you’re going to work together, how you’re going to grow your collaborative culture. You need a designed and intentional way of working together that everyone can agree to adopt, one that facilitates and fosters collaboration. Without it, people revert to their default way of interacting, and since we all come to the workplace with different backgrounds and expectations, this often leads to misunderstandings, upsets, and ineffectiveness. 

We Have the Seeds of a Collaborative Culture for You

Fortunately, you don’t have to create this designed and intentional way of working together all on your own. The Collaborative Way® is an example of the kind of seed–or roadmap–you want to plant in your organization. It’s centered around five core practices that provide the people in your organization with a mutual understanding of how you’re going to work together. These five core practices–Listening Generously, Speaking Straight, Being For Each Other, Honoring Commitments, and Acknowledgement and Appreciation–provide a powerful structure for fostering and facilitating collaboration. 

Listening Generously

If people aren’t really listening to each other, it’s incredibly difficult for them to collaborate. The practice of Listening Generously establishes the power of listening throughout your organization and trains people to become better listeners. When we listen generously to someone, we listen for the value in what they’re saying; we listen with curiosity, an intent to learn, and a willingness to be influenced. This kind of listening encourages collaboration in the people we interact with. If someone doesn’t feel heard, they’re much less likely to want to collaborate, but when they do feel heard, it fosters collaboration between us. 

Speaking Straight

Speaking Straight means speaking in a way that’s honest and forwarding and contributes to what you’re trying to accomplish. When the people in your organization agree to practice speaking this way, they become more skillful in speaking in a way that encourages collaboration. They become more aware of the impact of their speaking and the ways in which their speaking can shut down collaboration. 

Taking on Speaking Straight also means being willing to speak up even when it’s uncomfortable, which is so important to collaboration and innovation. If people aren’t willing to speak up when they see a need for change or an opportunity for growth, it’s very difficult to get the most out of your team. When your organization has taken on Listening Generously, it makes it much easier for people to speak up because they know they’re more likely to be heard. This is an example of how these practices synergize to create a collaborative culture. 

Being for Each Other

When you are “being for” someone, you are committed to supporting that person’s success and the success of your working relationship. When the people in an organization commit to working together in this way, it supports them in moving through the conflict that inevitably arises from collaboration. When people collaborate, they often bump into issues and disagreements. Without a mutual commitment to be for each other, these issues can turn into gossip and infighting. When you practice Being for Each Other, you address and clean up any issues, misunderstandings, or disagreements that arise so that you can continue to support each other’s success and continue to collaborate productively. This practice makes it possible to collaborate on even the most challenging issues.  

Honoring Commitments

If people don’t keep their commitments, it destroys a collaborative culture; it erodes people’s trust and willingness to collaborate. That’s why the practice of Honoring Commitments is so important for creating a collaborative culture. When the people in an organization commit to the practice of Honoring Commitments, they don’t just get better at keeping their own commitments; they begin to see commitments in a whole new way. They see them as a two-way street, something both the giver and receiver of the commitment are in on together. They’re both committed to the commitment’s success, which fosters collaboration throughout the process of fulfilling the commitment and leads to more commitments being kept.

Acknowledgement and Appreciation

The practice of Acknowledgement and Appreciation draws out the best in people. When people feel appreciated, they’re more open to engaging in collaboration and sharing their ideas and perspectives. When acknowledgement is missing in an organization, people tend to protect their ideas to make sure they get credit for their contribution. When the people in your organization take on acknowledging and appreciating each other on a daily basis, it creates an environment that inspires people to be generous with their thoughts and ideas and makes collaboration a natural part of the way you work together.

How Do You Plant the Seeds of a Collaborative Culture?

Having the people in your organization read The Collaborative Way: A Story About Engaging the Mind and Spirit of a Company or having them take on the team-building journey in The Collaborative Way App are two ways to plant the seeds in your organization. Our team of consultants can also train your leaders in The Collaborative Way, and you can carry that training on to the rest of your organization through Collaborative Way Orientations that you lead in-house. Whatever way you choose to establish this agreed upon way of working together in your organization, it’s an essential first step in creating a collaborative culture.  

Water Your Garden

As important as it is to establish a mutual understanding of how you’re going to work together, unfortunately, it’s not enough. You can plant the best seeds in the world, but if you don’t water them, they’re not going to grow, and you won’t end up with the kind of collaborative culture you want for your organization. 

Once you’ve trained the people in your organization in how to practice this designed and intentional way of working together, the most important thing you can do to help The Collaborative Way take root in your organization is to deliberately practice the five core practices–Listening Generously, Speaking Straight, Being For Each Other, Honoring Commitments, and Acknowledgement and Appreciation–on a daily basis. You have to walk the talk. You have to be an example of what it means to practice The Collaborative Way.

The practice of The Collaborative Way is a lifelong journey that no one ever perfects. As you learn and grow in your own practice, share what you’ve learned with others. This will help them grow in their practice and help reinforce how you want the people in your organization to work together. When you see someone falling short in their practice of The Collaborative Way, don’t ignore it. Seize it as a coaching opportunity and an opportunity to continue to grow this transformative way of working together and to grow the kind of collaborative culture that your organization needs to succeed. 

Contact us to learn more about how we can help you create a collaborative culture in your organization.