In the trough of chaos, too many people think teamwork and collaboration are the same thing. The problem is that most leaders focus on team work. They rally a group of people together and charge the hill, i.e. try to solve a specific problem. With enough focus and group effort, they will solve just about any problem. The difficulty is that in the trough of of chaos solving a singular problem does not always take into consideration that solving a problem within one part of the company may cause problems to rise up in other areas of the company.
When I teach people about how to move through the trough of chaos, I remind them that team work is an intra-group activity and the collaboration is an inter-group activity. The best leaders focus on both.
Clearly, everyone wants a team to be a high functioning team with good levels of trust, dialogue, focus and the ability to hold each other accountable for collective results. This takes time and effort to build. It also takes routine maintenance to sustain.
Yet for a company to be successful as it moves through interesting times and a trough of chaos, we also need exceptional collaboration. This work also takes time, and lots and lots of communication. Typically, leaders rush to the team work side of the equation rather than investing time to build bridges between teams. This is more time intensive work, but if done correctly, it can be a valuable competitive advantage.
Over the course of my career, I have witnessed some amazing levels of collaboration between teams. I have seen leaders build these bridges and develop inter-team relationships. The secret that I have been able to discern in this process is the development of two things, namely a common language and a shared sense of mission. While this sounds so simplistic and basic, it is rarely done well. The best leaders and companies that I have worked with invest years in building that common language. They understand that effective communication is the first step to collaboration. They also understand that having everyone understand the mission of the company keeps us all focused in the right direction.
This week, keep building common language and spend lots and lots of time unpacking and discussing the meaning of the company’s mission statement. Then good team work and good collaboration will start to take place.