Guest Article: Cultural shift – How to build a collaborative culture

Business, Guest Blog, Health | Fri 31 May | Author – Business & Finance
collaborative culture

Corporate culture is key to any business – so how can your business create a culture of collaboration?

What is Culture?

There is always a culture. Wherever you work, there will be a culture and the culture can either be left to its own devices or it can be consciously created, adjusted, tweaked or changed. You decide. Culture is always present, it never stops. If you want a culture of collaboration, then focus your attention on it and be intentional about it.

In a way culture is quite simple, it simply determines “how things get done around here”. It is usually implicit rather than explicit and can be hard to pinpoint. It is not the “what”, it is the “how” of business. It is how people react, behave and interact every minute of every day. It is not something complicated or fluffy, it is something quite simple.

Why is collaboration so important?

The speed of change that we are experiencing today, means that most if not all organisations will sooner or later either disrupt OR be disrupted by old or new players in the market. To disrupt is to achieve disruptive innovation, to do something that radically changes the status quo, and no one can do this on their own. This kind of disruption demands some serious collaboration.

To collaborate is a bit like bringing all the pieces together in a jigsaw. They can all fit together perfectly and if a piece is missing, the picture will be incomplete. Everyone brings their unique piece to the jigsaw at work, and leaders do well to recognize the value of bringing all the pieces together.

How do you then build a collaborative culture?

Here are 10 steps to building a Collaborative Culture, focusing on the behaviours that create that culture:

  1. Agree on your shared purpose and direction (why you need to collaborate)
  2. Make sure goals are aligned and not competing with or contradicting each other
  3. Make it easy to collaborate – decide how to work together and how to measure success
  4. Take an interest in others, get to know each other to build trust
  5. Communicate openly and courageously – be respectfully transparent
  6. Generously share what you know; knowledge, skills, experience and wisdom. This is the epitome of powerful collaboration.
  7. Listen without prejudice – let go of any need to ‘be right’
  8. Give each other behavioural feedback – in a supportive and respectful way
  9. Recognise and value each person’s strengths and contributions
  10. Commit to agreements, keep your promises, hold each other accountable

Look inside

And in all of this – look to yourself first. How are you behaving? Are you collaborative? Your actions and behaviours will make a big difference – people will do what you do, not what you say. Think of yourself as a role model for the kind of collaborative culture you want to create. Everyone’s behaviour shapes the culture, but the behaviours that are displayed by and accepted and even rewarded by leaders are the biggest culture shapers. Be aware of what you are rewarding. Be intentional and say what behaviour you are rewarding, be explicit about it.

Keep in mind that if you want to create a culture of collaboration, you need to first create a culture of learning; that people are allowed to learn, not needing to always ‘be right’. It’s OK to make mistakes and learn from them – it’s the only way we can really learn. And healthy conflict (having different opinions) is a must in a learning, innovative culture of collaboration too.

A collaborative culture happens leader by leader, minute by minute and everyone is a leader as leadership is the act and art of influencing others. What culture are you creating? Be intentional about it and have a collaborative impact.

Mandy Flint and Elisabet Vinberg Hearn are leadership strategists with a focus on future trends for leadership. They are multi award-winning authors, their 3rd Book for FT publishing The Leader’s Guide to Impact is out now.