Here is part five in the ongoing musings on collaboration. This post focuses on executing collaboration by rethinking relationships and structures in your organizations.

Invite Others to the Process

    Because we are still bound (at times overly so) to positional leadership models, team members may feel leaders don’t want their ideas about the emerging mission or initiative. Positional leaders need to break down the wall that suggests only certain team members can enter the discovery process. As leaders we need to share our thoughts about any given mission in a way that invites others to do the same. If you don’t invite, it’s unlikely you’ll get the best thinking about the mission.

    It was no wonder that Sarah’s staff felt excluded; they were. Sarah consumed all the air in the room. There was nothing left. Nor was there any reason for anyone else to donate ideas. Sarah did all the discovery work, and her team let her—or maybe better yet had no way NOT to let her. It’s easy, as a leader, to fall into the, “leader knows best syndrome.” If this is the message sent to a team, most will accept it and try to find some way to work around it. The reality though it this: we are smarter, wiser and better at execution together, not alone. A leader, who excludes others from the front end of discovery, will have far more problems on the back end of activity. Invite early on in the discovery phase, and collaboration throughout is far more likely.


Consider This: Rethinking Structure can make you more "invitational" as a leader

To be invitational about the discovery process requires leaders to change their view of people and positions inside the organization. Hierarchy has been the dominant view of organization for a couple hundred years.  In this system people related to each other based on their positions in the hierarchy. Discovery of important initiatives and vision was reserved for those near the top. This structure did not, does not, naturally foster dialogue. It fosters monologues, commands, directives, and corrective types of communication, but not dialogue.

If we are to discover mission and important initiatives together, we need a different way to view organizational relationships. Enter the stream metaphor. Invitational leaders think less “top down” and more side-to-side, like a stream.    

People all up and down the stream are invited into appropriate levels of dialogue about the emerging mission initiatives. Of course, not everyone can have the same level of dialogue–nor can everyone be in on every decision. However, the more universal (at some level) the dialogue, the more universal the  collaboration will be around the mission in daily work. If a leader has to spend a lot of time re-framing, cajoling, coercing and begging people (up and down the stream) to “get on board” after the mission is already activated, it’s likely that he or she didn’t spend enough time listening and talking up and down the stream prior to the launch.