Think You’re Ready to Collaborate? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself

Can We Talk?Ken Blanchard knows a thing or two about collaboration.  After all, he’s written successful business books with over 60 different coauthors.  In a new article for Chief Learning Officer, Ken shares five keys for successful collaboration from his latest book, Collaboration Begins with You, which is being released on October 12.  Together with coauthors Eunice Parisi-Carew and Jane Ripley, Ken explains that successful collaboration requires five commitments on the part of potential team members.  How would you score yourself on each of these five commitments?

Utilize differences. Many people think if a group working together allows differing viewpoints, it might create disagreement and that would be a bad thing. However, conflict in collaborative groups is good, as long as it focuses on the issues and doesn’t get personal. Do you actively seek different points of view, encourage debate and feel comfortable moderating conflict?

Nurture safety and trust. Trust is key to effective collaboration. Be sure you are accessible, authentic and dependable. Do you consider all ideas before decisions are made and view mistakes as learning opportunities? Are you clear about your expectations for others?

Involve others in crafting a clear purpose, values and goals. Leadership is about going somewhere. Work with others to create a clear purpose, values and goals. Then, set them in place for your department, project team or organization. Do you hold yourself and others accountable for adhering to the agreed-upon purpose, values and goals? Have you included collaboration as one of the stated values?

Talk openly. This ties back into safety and trust. People need to know it’s safe to express themselves, and that their opinions will be respected. Encourage everyone’s contribution. Are you a good listener? Do you share information about yourself? Are you open to feedback?

Empower yourself and others. Empowerment is all about people being able to take initiative, be accountable and bring their brains to work. Do you continually work to develop your competence? Is everyone empowered to contribute their opinions, even if they disagree? Are people encouraged to network across all levels and departments?

Blanchard shares that the main barrier to a collaborative culture is silos — people and departments hoarding information and power. In siloed organizations, people are more interested in organizational hierarchy and their own interests than in working together toward a common goal. When you put self-interest aside and commit yourself to the greater good, you become what Blanchard and his coauthors call a “silo buster.”

Establishing a culture of collaboration isn’t easy. It requires everyone to step forward with a completely new mindset. To read more about Blanchard’s thinking check out his column in the September issue of Chief Learning Officer.  For more about his new book (and to even pre-order) visit his book page at

As Blanchard reminds his readers, “Collaboration begins with you, and it can begin today!”

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