Leadership Is… Collaboration

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One of the most significant challenges in working with others is knowing when, who, and how much to trust. Until an understanding of trust is established, people stay guarded and are less likely to step genuinely through the problem-solving process. One’s prior experiences, both general and specific, play a crucial role in reacting to other individuals or groups. When people do not work cooperatively, there are likely silos of knowledge and skills and inefficiencies of effort. For leaders, it is essential to invest time to observe how people react to problems and then provide guidance to assist them in addressing issues positively.

How Are Your Problem-Solving Skills?

Solving problems collaboratively takes intentionality, a great deal of self-awareness, and perhaps even self-restraint. People are “hard-wired” to protect themselves. In situations of discomfort or danger, one senses the urge to either “fight” or “flee” from the situation. Over time, most people have been conditioned in some capacity to avoid potentially conflicting or uncomfortable situations. In working with others collaboratively, one must be intentional about overcoming those natural tendencies to avoid discomfort or conflict. Additionally, one must be willing to forego their own ideas, techniques, and even selfish desires as they partner with others to investigate and address challenges. One makes the intentional decision to be reciprocal while awaiting reciprocation, hoping it produces a magnified effect, exponential to any individual effort. This is the heart of collaborative trust.

Creating A Culture For Collaboration

Workplaces are historically social environments, although generally established for purposes stated otherwise. The average U.S. worker spends more time with their coworkers than they do with their own families. To boost employee engagement and productivity, employers must create a culture filled with healthy coworker relationships (Huhman, 2014). The problem-solving process is made easier within healthy workplace relationships, where the road to trust is easier to navigate.

Leaders can foster collaborative partnerships in a variety of ways. Encouraging the growth of natural connections coworkers may establish for themselves can produce benefits in the problem-solving arena, as it gives these already established partnerships more purpose when perhaps assigned a challenge. Leaders can foster additional collaboration by creating cross-functional teams of personnel that do not already have natural connections in their typical work. Setting these cross-functional teams special projects that may even be “exploratory” gives individuals an opportunity to get to know the value and interests of others and help establish trusting relationships that might not otherwise develop.

Building Trust Through Challenges

While trusting others is not a common natural trait, a leader can influence others through intentional efforts to foster collaboration. Giving groups of individuals a purpose gives them a reason to tackle a challenge and resolve current problems or avoid those in the near or distant future. Knowing this, leaders can solve problems in a step-by-step fashion by first establishing trust of their own and encouraging others through the culture they intentionally foster through a conjoined purpose. Successful problem solving is found in the reciprocity of trust between individuals, groups, and the overall organization.

Are you looking for ways to build a culture of collaboration? Contact the team at Achieve Onward to set up a team-building session.


Huhman, H. (2014). The Hidden Benefits of Happy Coworkers (Infographic). Entrepreneur. Retrieved from: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/238122

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