Lack of Collaboration causes Workplace failures

The primary challenge in globally dispersed organizations is to ensure that the workforce operates productively to accomplish corporate goals and meet market demands.  It is important for these organizations that goals proliferate throughout the local teams or Business Units to ensure maximized worker productivity and meeting of market demands.  This proliferation is oftentimes dependent on the leaders of the organization, who contribute to setting the tone and culture for how individuals work, communicate with each other, and ultimately the productivity of the workforce to accomplish corporate goals and meet market demands. 


Business Unit Goals Focus vs Company Goals

Leaders are the foundational members of a company and their style has a direct impact on how employees engage with each other.  Leaders must understand the people on their team and determine the best approach and style to facilitate achievement of goals and objectives for the group or Business Unit and the company.  In organizations with a more Command and control leadership approach, bureaucracy is more prevalent and communication between employees and departments or business units may be strained.  Leaders in these organizations may be driven by achievement of departmental or business unit goals versus the larger collective goals of the organization.  However, this style of leadership results in employees practicing behaviors that is against the larger collective.  Employees may feel encouraged to share less information with others, reject new ideas for fear of failure, and possibly work against others, despite everyone working for the same company.  The organizational impact of this style of leadership is poor employee morale and job satisfaction


Encouraging Collaboration

Whereas in decentralized leadership approach, collaboration is encouraged and a more Democratic style of leadership may be adopted.  This style of leadership is built on consensus building and leaders leverage the skills and knowledge of their workforce.  The ultimate goal should however, not be lost on a leader.  They should work to manage employees so that they have limited barriers to be effective, they feel empowered to look for new opportunities to grow their career, and feel equipped with the knowledge and abilities to effectively deal with the challenges of their job.  This requires a leader who as suggested in a Wall Street Journal article on leadership styles, can adapt their style to meet the needs of their particular group of employees and the situation of their organization.    


Leadership style impacts the Bottom Line

Leaders of an organization must be cognizant of the impact their style has on the bottom line results of the organization.  In a study conducted by Daniel Goleman at the turn of the twenty-first century, the results revealed, “that a manager’s leadership style was responsible for 30% of the company’s bottom line profitability.”  Therefore, leaders must be aware of how their style could cause ineffective communication throughout the organization, less productive employees, and eventually, less competitiveness of the organization.  Leaders must also be aware that other underlying issues may be prevalent throughout the organization which could cause a less productive workforce such as general fears of sharing knowledge and resistance to change and new ideas.  In these cases, other styles of leadership may be more appropriate.  For instance, the Affiliative style, which emphasizes team work and harmony to accomplish goals, may be best when groups are prone to work in silos and resist communication.  Such a style can highlight the importance of working together for the collective good of the group versus adversarial relationships that reduce the productivity.  Such an acknowledgement can demonstrate how a leader can be mindful of changing or improving their style to produce better results for the company.    


Culture of trust

In order for organizations to overcome operational ineffectiveness, a culture of trust must be established, whereby employees feel comfortable sharing with others in the company.  In fact, a study conducted by the IBM Institute of Knowledge-Based Organizations (IKO) noted that the important factor to establish strong employee relationships and knowledge sharing is trust.  This study further revealed that there are two kinds of trust, benevolence based trust - individuals do not intentionally harm other, and competence based trust - individuals believes the other person is knowledgable, which improves communication and knowledge sharing.  Both kinds of trust can exist independently from the other and individuals do not need both types of trust with others to always share.  However, both types of trust support different goals for the organization, and therefore, organizations should find ways to promote both types of trust within the organization and between employees. 


Infrastructure & Systems for Collaboration

Another important factor for organizations is the existence of robust systems to support the teamwork of employees in order to achieve organizational goals.  These systems include technological infrastructure that supports communication and collaboration, formal and informal networks for employees to learn more about others (i.e., mentoring programs, communities of practice, lunch-and-learns, etc.), timely, well-designed training for easy access by the employee, and an appraisal and reward system that promotes the desired behavior.  These systems can support a more open environment where communication flows easily between individuals, trust is developed, and knowledge is shared to complete work, generate new ideas, and solve problems of the organization. 


Building trust IN organizations

In both cases, establishing trust and supporting robust systems, leadership is required for success.  The study conducted by the IBM IKO noted three actions that managers can take to build more trusting organizations:

  • Create common understanding of the operational activities of the organization. Create a common context of the work to be accomplished and the goals of group will help to build shared language and a shared view for how work is accomplished

  • Model behavior expected of employees. It is important that employees see their leaders demonstrating the behaviors being asked of them. This starts with actively listening to others and encouraging employees to communicate and share their concerns. It is important that employees believe their leaders are trustworthy before they will feel comfortable sharing with others.

  • Bring teammates together. While physical distance may prevent all employees from coming together face-to-face, leaders should work on ways in which team members, regardless of physical location, can interact with each other. These opportunities will go a long way in building trust and supporting the systems in place that can facilitate effective working relationships for the common good of the group and the organization overall.

These actions taken by managers can undercut silos of communication, strained relationships, and fear and begin to create a culture of sharing and trust.