Business Best Practices

3 Keys to Effective Collaboration

Looking for fresh insights on fostering effective collaboration in your peer circle? Here are several key strategies for building more successful partnerships.

June 17, 2024

In a recent blog post, we talked about social entrepreneur Brian Sanders’ concept of the coming “collaborator economy.” We talked about how utterly necessary collaborative efforts will be for visionary leaders in the days to come. We further began to deconstruct some of the mindsets and obstacles that stand in the way of such efforts. In this article, we will go a little deeper into Brian’s ideas of how to effectively build collaborative partnerships to maximize our impact as architects of a better future marketplace and society.

Sanders recently shared some of his forward-thinking ideas at a leadership conference in Kansas City, Missouri. In this talk, titled “The Perils and Possibilities of Working with Other Organizations,” he outlined several key characteristics every collaborative leader must develop to succeed. We paid close attention, and want to pass along to you our readers the value that we gleaned from this talk. Below is our translation of these brilliant insights Brian offered. 

Take notes on how you may be able to apply this to build your best team and reflect on what may be true of yourself.

Must-Have Characteristics of A Great Collaborator

1. A Proper Level of Exhaustion

Before you can really practice effective collaboration, you need folks who have exhausted all other options. Most people struggle to properly engage in deep partnership and cooperation until they have personally realized that there simply is no other way forward. It takes a while for us all to develop a conviction that we cannot reach our goals in isolation.

Even when we believe in the power of collaboration in theory, many of us struggle with giving up our unique action plans, agendas, and expectations in order to really create some positive change in this world together. Our ambitions and our differences tend to keep our engagement with one another limited, or to drive us apart in competition. This is true of all teams.

The sooner we hit rock bottom when trying to be the lone hero in the story, the better. That’s precisely when powerhouse alliances like the Justice League or Avengers begin to forge.

2. Catalytic Leadership

Every great collaborator will either want to become or to find a catalytic leader. This is a specific type of leader with a limited role and function. Catalytic leaders boldly recognize that they are here to ignite collective movement, and they humbly do not pretend to be needed to sustain it. They join a network or a team to provide short-term leadership, or to facilitate initial planning sessions. 

The purpose of this individual is not to single-handedly build something great. Nor is their aim to power through in carrying a vision to its completion. Rather, catalysts have the foresight to know that they will help get the ball rolling, spur ideation, assist other leaders, and create some momentum. Then, they recognize their own limits and pass their baton off to responsible stewards.

Too many visionary leaders see themselves as figureheads, necessary to represent and guide everyone for the long haul. A catalytic leader knows their unique place in the history of any organization or partnership. They also know how to release and delegate to others. Before long they will transition, strategically taking their hands off the steering wheel. They adopt a new behind-the-scenes supporting role – or get out of the way altogether. This allows more folks to take ownership of the vision, and to apply new skills and insights to seeing it unfold. 

Brian Sanders says catalytic leaders are deferential, meaning they have no dog in the fight. They are outsiders coming in to serve and initiate movement, leveraging their strengths and wisdom for others’ benefit. They know though that the real experts are those who will follow up, operating as the practitioners who actualized the plans they help set in motion. And they are satisfied with that.

Side Note: This is exactly the role our CIO Mastermind peer group facilitators play! These top-tier leaders bring their own well-honed tactics and abilities to every collaborative discussion they host. Refusing to talk down to anyone, they consistently empower those involved to make their contribution and collectively level-up their capabilities for tackling real-world problems facing the IT industry. 

After a season, facilitators unleash the group participants to carry on with implementation processes. They leave participants well equipped – with less external support and much more confidence in themselves.

3. Know The Part You Play

Every team player must be able to define what they bring to the table. This has a twofold result:

  • It allows you to hone in on what you specialize in, and play your part with excellence.
  • It frees you from feeling the pressure to carry the whole load.

Because high-level leaders are used to thinking of the needs and goals of their respective companies and organizations, they often struggle to work well with each other. Most of us have not been practiced in operating as if our ventures are only a piece of the bigger picture. We must learn to see the unique gifts and advantages we bring to the table, without trying to get everyone around us to have all the same approach or angle of perspective that we bring. Putting our heads together is when we see how we can serve one another and accomplish more as a unit.

As an executive, hone in on what makes you and your team unique. Contribute your piece to the puzzle in an advisory peer group, but make sure that your piece is very defined. Don’t try to take on any other CIO, CISO or CTO’s piece. Be willing to embrace your weaknesses and limitations, enjoying the relief of trusting others to step up and carry their own weight.

All of this may require a whole new level of communication and patience for collaborators. When we pace ourselves properly though, we find it to be an abundantly worthwhile process!

Taking Your Next Steps Forward

Want to learn more about how to excel in practicing the art of professional collaboration? We highly recommend you check out Brian’s exceptional book, 5 Keys to Cross-Organizational Collaboration. Not only does this book unpack the ideas we covered in this article much more thoroughly, but it further lays out other insights we did not even begin to address.

Ready to jump into the real work of practicing effective collaboration? Familiarize yourself with our monthly peer group services. For those of you in the C-suite, these roundtable discussions offer an experience you simply won’t want to miss. Find out more information today!

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