The Leader Magazine

SEP-OCT 2015

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What is collaboration, as you define it? Collaboration is the ability of two or more people to work together to integrate their individual bases of expertise, typically to address complex issues that no specialist could resolve alone. Why is collaboration such a hot topic these days? The demand for cross-border collaboration stems from two competing forces. The first is that people are under pressure to specialize more. In order for anyone to claim expertise in an area, that area has to be small. This move toward specialization is happening across areas from science to real estate. The other factor is the complexity of problems people are forced to solve, stemming in part from companies' global ambitions. I talk to a lot of management consultants. Outsourcing has been a trend for decades. But at one time, you mostly needed manufacturing and logistics experts. Now you need those, plus human rights lawyers, lobbyists, economists, and many more specialists. That same task is more complicated. People are narrower in what they're expert at, so you have to get all of these groups to work together. What are some organizational barriers to collaboration, and how are these magnified when a company has teams that span the globe? One typical barrier is competence trust. That's the trust in another person's abilities at the most basic level. Do I trust that you'll treat my client or my project with as much skill and attention as I would? With a firm that has expanded through a merger and acquisition, you swallow the good, the bad and everything in between from another organization. You really have no real way of knowing how much to trust another's competence. The other barrier is interpersonal trust, which relates to another person's character. This type of trust deals with questions such as do I want to collaborate with you if I'm not sure you're not going to undermine me with my client? Lack of familiarity breeds mistrust, especially when you start looking across other cultures. Some of these barriers start right at the top in terms of how much transparent communication takes place. Employees must know what to expect of a company's leaders. Leaders need to be transparent and then ruthlessly follow through in their commitments. If people are uncertain about the environment leaders create, they're less likely to trust the organization and each other. How can companies overcome these barriers and achieve success? A robust, company-wide talent management system gives people some reliable indicators of what they can expect from their colleagues at any given level and thus fosters competence trust. Regular face-to-face meetings and events such as corporate retreats and department offsites allow people to develop interpersonal connections. These events should be structured not as mere updates—avoid the "death by PowerPoint" problem. Instead, give people real, hands-on projects to kick-start together during the event, with clear objectives to hold them accountable for working together to complete the project when they return to their own offices. The sooner people have a common objective, the sooner FOSTERING SUCCESSFUL Collaboration Among Global Teams A Conversation with Heidi Gardner, PhD, Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession 14 the LEADER | September/October 2015 LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT BY NICHOLE BAZEMORE

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