Collaborate. It rhymes with communicate, accelerate, cooperate and congratulate.
I’m excited to share a message that could have a life-changing impact on you – how to become a Champion Collaborator.
Think about it: 80% of your time is spent in meetings, on the phone or responding to e-mails. Your engagement in collaborative activities has increased by 50% over the past five years. The complexity of your environment is accelerating even faster.
Anything that is worth anything can only be achieved through others. Some of your stakeholders will be on your direct team. Other stakeholders will be located elsewhere in your organization. Others will belong to partner companies, customers and suppliers. Others will be part of a network with whom you may not even have met yet.
In all the work that I’m doing with the world’s best companies, collaboration is the single biggest theme. Collaboration is defined as: working effectively with other people or groups to achieve a mutually desired result.
It seems like it should be a natural instinct, but it’s not. Highly effective collaboration is not the norm. It’s the exception.
According to an article in the Harvard Business Review January 2016 issue by Rob Cross, Reb Rebele and Adam Grant, research across 300 organizations shows that the distribution of collaborative work is extremely lopsided. They found that 20% to 35% of value-added collaboration comes from only 3-5% of employees. As people become known for being both capable and willing to help, they are drawn into projects and roles of increasing importance.
A recent study by Ning Li, of the University of Iowa, shows a single “Extra Miler” – an employee who frequently contributes beyond the scope of his or her role – can drive team performance more than all the other members combined.
So what gets in the way of highly effective collaboration? Why are there so few Extra Milers? Our research has revealed five key barriers:
- Lack of purpose. Collaboration requires a willingness to go above and beyond. It involves extra time and effort. People must believe it is worth it before they do it. Collaboration happens on purpose, not by accident.
- Lack of perspective. Collaboration requires an understanding of the bigger picture beyond one’s functional responsibilities. People must understand how their contribution impacts the greater whole.
- Lack of trust. Collaboration is risky. It means putting your credibility in the hands of someone else. It requires a mutuality of interest where there is a reciprocal commitment to each other.
- Lack of expertise. Collaboration is a dynamic discipline. It requires the agility, knowledge and technological savvy to shape-shift with one’s environment on a daily basis.
- Lack of enablers. Collaboration takes off when there is a clear runway. It must be rewarded and systematized. It needs the culture and infrastructure to encourage its development.
Let me cut to the chase: if you’re lucky, you belong to one of the elite few organizations that are already walking the talk. This message is for the rest of us who are leading the way against all odds.
Champion Collaborators are not defined by their situation. They define their situation through remarkable actions. They are bigger than their circumstances. What lies before them and what lies behind them are tiny matters compared to what lies within them.
Here is the secret sauce of Champion Collaborators in a single sentence: Champion Collaborators help others succeed in a way that motivates others to invest more time and resources with them.
Let me repeat that: Champion Collaborators help others succeed in a way that motivates others to invest more time and resources with them.
Champion Collaborators become the reason why other people get what they want. They make others better, faster, stronger, smarter. They are the marquee players that lift the entire team. They have the capacity to multiply other people’s capacity. They magnetize others to them because they always come through for them.
So are you a Champion Collaborator? Do you help others get what they want in a way that makes them want to invest more time and resources with you? On a scale of 1-10, where 1= not-at-all and 10 = absolutely-yes, where are you? How do you know?
Here are three simple criteria:
- Are you part of a team that is best-in-class? By that I mean: is your team consistently rated #1 in your category on the important metrics?
- Do other people consistently invite you to participate in their projects or join their teams? In other words, have you built a reputation as a valuable contributor?
- Are you investing at least 20% of your time looking for new ways to help more people? Or, to put it differently, are you going beyond your current stakeholders and activities to expand your impact?
Makes you think, doesn’t it? No matter what your answers, it’s always day one. The best time to begin is now. So here are our ten researched ways to become a Champion Collaborator. Pass them on:
- Inspire yourself. Champion Collaborators are not dependent on outside things to inspire them. They act on purpose. When they cannot choose their situation, they choose their attitude towards their situation. I’m doing this because I love to excite people into action. I need to excite myself before I can excite you. Can you feel it?
- Know the world. Know your industry. Know your company. Confusion is a global state of mind. Uncertainty is the default position. Anxiety is a dominant emotion. The antidote is people with deep domain expertise. Knowledge is power, especially when it’s shared. So study the trends. Focus on the game-changers. You don’t have to know everything, but you do have to know everything that matters.
- Focus on what counts. Say no to what doesn’t count. Know the difference between the two. Energy is a limited resource. Don’t get sucked into sidebars. Ration your commitments. Reward people who get it. Don’t tolerate people who don’t. Lean in to the main things. Take the fast track by keeping other people on track.
- Run towards the problem. Go looking for trouble. There’s always a better way. There’s always a breakdown waiting to happen. There’s always a competitor circling your customers. There’s always a gap about to open up. Find it. Talk about it. Partner with others to preempt it.
- Promote your promise. Communicate your unique value proposition. Ensure other people know how you can help them achieve their desired results. Build your personal brand as a Champion Collaborator. Use the language of possibility and opportunity. Never miss an opportunity to broadcast your benefit.
- Use technology to amplify your impact. No matter what your industry, geniuses have created breakthrough tools to extend your reach and broaden your network. Choose your tools, then master them. Ask yourself, “How can I use this technology to create something with others that will be extraordinarily valuable in the marketplace?”
- Create a collaborative framework. Co-design processes and structures that mobilize and coordinate collective knowledge. Make it easy and appealing for others to engage. Reward collaboration even when desired results are not achieved. Celebrate Champion Collaborators by telling their story wherever you can.
- Get comfortable playing outside the lines. Collaboration means going where you haven’t gone before. It means co-creating new possibilities and taking new risks. It means that you go first so others can follow. It means making the best kind of mistakes. It isn’t for the faint of heart or the weak of will. Fortune favours the brave. If you want to win, there is no other way to be.
- Protect yourself against cynicism. Other people will let you down. Your trust will be abused. Your motives will be misunderstood. Things will go wrong. But you need to keep searching for new ways to collaborate. You need to keep giving more than you receive. You need to keep connecting new people to current stakeholders. No matter what happens, retain your belief in others.
- Train like an athlete. Collaboration is exhausting. You need stamina to always go the extra mile. You need tenacity to hold on when others let go. You need resilience to turn setbacks into breakthroughs. So eat right. Work out. Take time out. Your health is your ultimate resource. Take impeccable care of it. You’ll miss it when it’s gone.
This is Mike Lipkin, and until the next time, remember: In a hyper-connected world, collaboration is the natural order of things. Together, we can see things that are hidden from our individual view. So reach out and enlighten someone. You’ll be amazed at what flows back to you.