Trust Drives Collaboration

I have been advocating the move to a collaborative economy for the last 3 years and while many seem to like the idea, the move to it seems to have stalled a bit. However, our rapidly changing world continues to be forcing businesses and organizations to take a new approach to what they do, i.e., collaborate.

This change is not just smart but necessary for sustainable growth.  It has been shown many times in recent history that value is being created daily through complex, technology-enabled architectures of interconnection that link people and ideas across all types of interfaces.

Leaders everywhere are asking what will it take to be part of a Collaboration Economy?

Let’s look at a few:

Hopping on Board the Collaborative Economy! 

The first step of the collaborative approach: “Recognize” – Authentic leaders need to recognize that everyone on your team should be able to step up and lead. When engaged, every person in your organization can be a source of vital ideas, observations and risk watchdogs when trusted.

There is an information processing term in psychology called “bounded rationality” that comes to play here. At its core is that we all have serious limits in our ability to process information.  None of us know everything that we want to know.  However, we don’t need to know everything if we know people who know what we don’t know. This allows us to collaborate with others by connecting with them to help us find better solutions.

Organizations can be wildly effective when they are open to using the expanded information sets that their collective membership commands – especially if they can tap and use that information when it is critical.  When this light bulb turns on the organization can be bathed in a great light of encouragement and empowerment.

The second step of the collaborative approach: “Know your People” – Each person in the organization must know as much as they can about each other’s skills and limitations, without being judgmental.  This is also where great leaders come into play because it’s most important for them to have this kind of knowledge.

However, many leaders don’t always know how to ask the right questions.  By asking and asking and asking, leaders can learn an enormous amount about their team members, and all of this interpersonal knowledge is not only incredibly useful, the mere process of asking of questions also helps build trust.

Every leader must realize that coordination and trust are incredibly important within a team.  Coordination has all sorts of obvious value for efficiency and speed, but real coordination can’t be achieved without trust.

The third step of the collaborative approach: “Trust” –  This is the one of the most difficult concepts for many leaders, a leader must make the first move and trust people more – more than they might expect and more than they might be comfortable with.  Leaders gain trust primarily by giving trust.

Today, far too many leaders are risk averse, and not just financially.  More importantly, they often don’t trust their team members enough and this leads to a broken culture.  Think about how have you responded when someone trusted you more than you expected?  If your organization members are anything like you, they will also step up when you trust them more than they expected.

The fourth step of the collaborative approach: “Empower” – Check out people’s reputations and do as much as you can to make sure that they are trustworthy before you risk too much.  Do they keep their commitments?  Make sure your data is accurate and not based on hearsay. Then, trust them more than they expect.  Knowing their strengths can go a long way towards allowing you to empower and encourage them to step out.  Research suggests that true professionals always want to show you that they are trustworthy: they almost inevitably step up and reciprocate.

As part of empowerment, I highly recommend that you provide tools that encourage and make it easy to communicate and reward completed commitments. I am working with a company that will be introducing a SaaS tool, in Summer 2016, to do just that, called PE.ER, Performance Excellence, Employee Recognition measurement tool.

The fifth step of the collaborative approach: “Unlock” –  When you realize that no organization has all the resources it needs to be sustainable and successful it is very enlightening. As a result, it will be necessary that you need to reach out to other teams of all kinds – customers, competitors, suppliers, superiors, and knowledge brokers. Unlock the potential that these networks can provide your business.

In 1992, Robin Dunbar postulated that the number of sustainable relationships a human can manage is 150.  Now, there are other’s who have offered up competing theories where the number could double but the message is clear; there is a limit that we must be aware of and I believe this can be leveraged by companies using culture and technology.  The key is ensuring that everyone performs with credibility, integrity, and trust.

As a leader, you want your people to use their connections to bring in new ideas, advance your team’s own ideas, and become more efficient.  Thus, your team’s social network is becoming increasingly important – and the good news here is that all of us have hundreds if not thousands of network ties.

Common sense tells us that we can’t keep all of our networks active all the time, that would be overwhelming. But reconnecting dormant ties can be incredibly useful.  Even if you have not connected for some time, you have already established a strong basis of trust with people you have known for a long time.  The exciting part of this is that not having been in touch with them means that they have been learning all sorts of things that you didn’t know about, and you can now tap.

In Summary:

Thus, as a leader, striving to be successful in a collaborative economy will require that you;

  1. Recognize that every member of the organization should be able to step up and lead!
  2. Create an exchange culture, encourage people to find out what they know and what they can and can’t do.
  3. Trust them to do what they can do.
  4. Empower them by letting them lead when they have key skill sets.
  5. Seek knowledge from your extensive supply of dormant networks.

The fast-paced, interconnected Collaboration Economy may seem daunting.  Building a strong organization will make this so much easier.

If you are exploring this approach to doing business in your organization, then I invite you to check our website at Transformative Leadership Group or call me at 630-454-4821 to discuss how you can adapt to it. Our frameworks can help you find ways to ensure that you have alignment.