The power of many: why collaboration is the key to success
[4 min read]
What we can learn from a flock of geese.
People and organisations alike thrive in an environment that is built on collaboration. When everybody comes together and works as one, workflows become smoother, tasks can be achieved quicker and effectively, healthy relationships can be formed, and productivity can be improved. Without a doubt, this in turn boosts morale, catapults motivation levels, and benefits all stakeholders alike. And at the root of it all sit mindset and culture.
If we want to build well-functioning teams and an organisation that reaches unparalleled performance heights, we want to make sure that we move everybody into an independence level and cause things to happen. We as leaders are at the helm of steering that and can empower those around us to excel if we assist them to move from dependence to independence in their thinking and their actions.
We all operate at different levels of dependence in various areas of our lives. The first level operates on a dependent mindset, where we are affected by everything and everyone around us, and unfortunately, this is how many people live their lives. At this level, our efforts output less than what we invest (1 + 1 ≤ 1), which can be attributed to the fact that a lot of extra energy goes into constantly being on the backfoot and being affected by others around us.
It is easy to fall into a trap of blaming others or particular circumstances for our current situation.
Every time you think the problem is out there,
you empower what’s out there to control you.
If we believe the other person or the other thing is the problem, then we are at effect. Because we surrender to a situation or hand over power to another person by believing we don’t have any. And if the other person or situation really is the problem, wouldn’t we want to have control and be empowered as much as possible?
Your mind needs to shift from
‘what’s out there has to change first’
‘what changes can I make
in order to change what’s out there’.
Hence, what we want to encourage is a shift into an independent mindset, and cause things to happen; to start each day already determined that it will be a successful day, and that we are at the root of deciding that. These two approaches stem from completely different mindsets.
Once we move from dependence to independence in our thinking and our actions, we can yield much better results. At this level, we cause things to happen on our own terms, rather than being too much at effect by circumstances around us. At this level, we now reap exactly what we sow (1 + 1 = 2).
This independent mindset of course is an amazing achievement in itself and creates a proactive approach by people who take charge rather than wait for outside factors to force a reaction. Unfortunately, this level can also create isolation and silos in our teams and organisation. We might be enticed to become selfish and believe that we no longer need anyone else to help us.
The power of many
Operating at an independence level where we get an equal return of our investment, still limits our performance and certainly the outcome of our entire team and organisation as a collective.
Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.
~ Helen Keller
Therefore, what we ultimately look for in a high performing team or organisation are independent people who are working in collaboration with each other. Our goal is to move from the independence to the ultimate interdependence level, where 1 + 1 ≥ 3; the sky is the limit!
A beautiful example of the incredible benefits of collaboration comes from Mother Nature. Wildlife scientists have conducted extensive studies to determine why geese and other migratory birds always fly in a distinctive V-formation. They found some fascinating results:
Firstly, when geese fly together in this pattern, each member of the flock provides additional lift and reduces air resistance to those behind them. As a consequence, it is estimated that the entire flock can fly about 70% further with the same energy than if every goose were to fly alone.
Secondly, birds flying in a V-formation rotate leadership because of the additional energy that is required of the bird flying at the front. When the leading bird gets tired, it moves to the back of the formation with the lightest resistance, and a different bird takes on the leadership position. This rotation of position happens many times in the course of the long journey to warmer climates which pre-supposes that each goose is very clear on the destination; translating the metaphor back to business, this would be the common goal, the vision and the purpose of the organisation
When a goose drops out of the V-formation it quickly discovers that it requires much more effort and energy to fly. Consequently, that goose will quickly return to the formation to take advantage of the lifting power that comes from flying together. When a team is functioning well, various members of the team may take the leadership role for a while because of a particular expertise or experience and hence everyone has the opportunity to serve as a leader as well as a follower.
Geese also frequently make loud honking sounds as they fly together. This is their way of communicating during the long flight. Similarly, when working in teams, it is very important for each team member to communicate regularly with all the other team members. Teams, businesses, families and communities frequently fall apart because of the lack of adequate communication among the various members of the team.
Another interesting fact is that geese help and support each other. If one goose becomes ill or injured, for example, and as a consequence drops out of the V-structure, two other geese will also leave the formation and remain with their weakened friend. They fly alongside and protect the injured goose from predators until it can fly again or dies. Likewise, human teams and organisation function better when true care for each other’s well-being is at the forefront; when they form a bond and do more than simply work in the same building or organisation.
Collaboration is the key to success
Interdependence is essentially merging a mindset of abundance with the discipline of leverage and is happening where independent individuals or organisations are working collaboratively to achieve a common vision.
Our aim as effective, inspirational leaders is to get ourselves, our employees and our organisations from dependence to independence (from effect to cause) to ultimately interdependence (collaboration) to create a highly effective workforce. It is at this point that we will realise that that there is more power in ‘WE’ than in ‘I’. Just like a doughnut, there is no hole without the doughnut but there is also no doughnut without the hole.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
The paradigm of interdependence is that:
- We take care of each other
- We can do it
- We share our combined knowledge, skills and positive attitude to create something bigger
We must remember that different people have different skills that can contribute to a common purpose or goal; just like The Avengers, the A team or X-men combine their individual talents to achieve a common goal.
Effective teams can:
- Utilise individual strengths and resources
- Solve challenges by brainstorming different perspectives
- Create a sense of purpose, belonging and achievement
- Tackle bigger and more complex challenges
We can leverage from our stakeholders’ individual strengths and talents with the help of a cohesive, collaborative environment. Collaboration is key; we are in this together!
The most valuable resource that we all have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives.
~ Robert John Meehan
The following tips will assist in achieve unparalleled collaboration within a team, intra-departmental, or across organisations.
- Respecting different perspectives in a diverse environment
- Establishing common goals where everyone benefits from working together
- Reducing conflict through openness and respect
- Encouraging innovation through a supportive environment
- Building trust by encouraging honesty and practising accountability
- Fostering interpersonal connections through a range of platforms and situations
- Recognising and rewarding collaboration to motivate and encourage continued effort
Collaboration is a buzz word in any size business for one major reason: it works. And as leaders, we play an essential role in building strong collaborations to move forward together. We need to be ready to continue to build on shared experiences, and reach out to our teams, our clients, other organisations etc. which will allow us to find better ways. Consistently challenge the system, try new things and learn from these collaborations.
Collaboration is key in building strong stakeholder relationships which allows organisations, teams and individual employees to support each other and thrive! And it all starts with building, fostering and cultivating an inclusive, collaborative environment.
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