5 Steps to Creating a Truly Collaborative Work Environment

I recently had an opportunity to sit in on a webinar conducted by Ken Blanchard, Eunice Parisi-Carew, and Jane Ripley, coauthors of the new book Collaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster. As they talked about the book, the three authors shared five key ingredients for creating a collaborative culture on a team, department, or organization-wide level.

Using the acronym UNITE, the authors explained that the creation of a collaborative work environment rests on five foundational principles.

Utilize differences. Organizations need to appreciate and be open to people and ideas that may seem at first to be outside of the mainstream. The best companies seek out creative thinking from all corners of the organization. The focus for leaders is to make sure that all ideas are surfaced for consideration.

Nurture safety and trust. New ideas will flourish when people feel safe to share them freely without fear of judgment. Leaders need to give people space to experiment and innovate, view mistakes as learning opportunities, and encourage risk taking. Trust is also generated through transparency—when leaders share knowledge about themselves and are clear about expectations.

Involve others in crafting a clear purpose, values, and goals. Instead of seeing purpose, values, and goals as something always originated by senior leaders, the authors recommend that everyone be involved in the process. Doing it this way encourages a sense of camaraderie and ownership in the group. Leaders follow through by reinforcing what was agreed upon, demonstrating supportive behaviors, and walking the talk.

Talk openly. Underlining the importance of utilizing differences and creating an environment of safety and trust, the authors shared the benefits of people talking openly without worrying about upsetting the status quo. There are benefits to creative conflict—but only when people can vigorously debate ideas without getting personal.

Empower yourself and others. Some leaders need to learn how to let go. True collaboration can never exist if people constantly look to the leader to solve problems. So don’t wait for someone else to decide it’s time to collaborate—everyone is responsible for creating a collaborative environment.

When people are busy, it’s normal to want to focus on getting individual work done. To combat this urge, the authors remind us of an old adage: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Collaboration Begins with YouCollaboration Begins with You: Be a Silo Buster shows the way. The book is now available online and in bookstores. You can learn more on the book’s website—or, if you’d like to listen to the author webinar I attended, be sure to access the full recording.

Interested in getting your team together for a live event? The authors will be conducting a second live webinar on October 21 as a part of the monthly webinar series from The Ken Blanchard Companies. The event is free. You can learn more or register using this link.

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