Get out of the way to lead collaboration

Hierarchy.

It keeps coming up as a common challenge for collaboration.

One way to overcome it is to get out of the way. Literally.

Like the leader who I saw recently pick up her things, excuse herself from the table and move to one side of the room, as the group was about to embark on a conversation.

“I stifle conversation,” she explained. “They just won’t talk if I’m at the table.”

It seemed an extreme option and she’s aware it’s unsustainable. Everyone misses out if she’s not participating.

At the other end of the spectrum, I could feel the glum silence of a group as their leader spoke for them, responding to questions intended to generate ideas. He seemed oblivious to the crossed arms and eyes looking anywhere but at him.

The happy medium lies somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. It means getting out of the way – metaphorically.

To strengthen your collaborative leadership skills and behaviour, check if you are:

  • Asking or telling

  • Guiding or directing

  • Empowering or disempowering

Here’s a few things specific things leaders can do to find the middle ground.

 🔸 Be clear the purpose - is it to share ideas, identify options, make recommendations or reach a decision?

🔸 Give people a question to consider before the conversation, so they have the opportunity to reflect on their own

🔸 Invite one of the team, not the leader, to facilitate the conversation

🔸 Ask open questions

🔸 Admit that you don’t have all the answers

🔸 Listen – deeply.

🔸 Respond to ideas with phrases like, ‘what if…’, ‘I wonder’, ‘how about….’, ‘what I’ve found has worked is…’

🔸 Enable people to talk in pairs or small groups

🔸 Judging when to wield influence, rather than authority

So tell me. What skills do you think are needed to lead collaboration? I’d love to hear, please share in the comments below.

Here’s a few ways to hone your collaborative skills and abilities. Get a copy of my white paper. Get tips & tools in my weekly blog. Get started on my Collaborability Workout program.