Over the last few weeks we have been talking about collaboration and why it is one of the most important skills in the 21st century. You can read this blog (here) where we have explained how institutions of higher learning are failing Kenyan graduates by not teaching the students to collaborate. In this blog (here) one of the Lapid Leaders shares the lessons on collaboration that she picked as part of the Lapid Leaders Experience. The question we are still asking is how can we become better Collaborative Leaders.
We live in times when you either collaborate or you move at snail pace and in the long run get killed anyway. No one person will be able to achieve great heights without working with others. The only way the continent of Africa grows as fast as it needs to in this century, is through collaboration. Businesses have to find ways of leveraging on each other, individuals have to develop a Pan-African perspective to the issues they face, and we all need to become collaborators. However, there are many societal, cultural and even individual factors that hinder us from becoming collaborators.
One of the greatest hindrances to collaboration is what we have come to refer to as ‘Movie Star Mentality’. One of the greatest barriers that movie producers have to overcome is the movie star who believes that without him or her the movie would not exist, the movie star who does not know how to work with others because they believe in a world that revolves around them. Over time, every producer learns to avoid these personalities like a hot potato.
Unfortunately the movie star mentality is not just found in movies. Many workplaces are plagued by individuals with a ‘movie-star’ mentality. Over time every employer adopts the same strategy as the Movie Producers, they avoid the individuals with a movie star mentality like a hot-potato. I recommend every employee and even employer to read this book, ‘Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else’ by Geoff Colvin.
We work with young people and it is easy to see how the movie star mentality has been ingrained in many. In many instances, you can always trace this mentality back to the way they were parented. However, in the 21st century, this young people will be swallowed or side stepped by the ‘Movie Producers’ of the marketplace.
One of our Employment Partners always says, ‘I would rather employ a technically incompetent person than employ a person with a poor attitude or even worse, a sense of entitlement’. She has been reported to say in many forums that she can teach most technical skills but attitudes she will not teach. How then can an individual develop collaborative skills, in the marketplace and even in other forums? Here are some of the pointers we have picked from the classes of the current cohort of Lapid Leaders.
Speak your mind. Collaboration is often confused with group think. Nothing undermines collaboration more than festering resentment. If something is bugging you, let the appropriate people know. Deal with any issues you may have quickly and honesty. The more this kind of healthy exchange happens, the easier it becomes. A team is only strong if team members are able to speak up and contribute towards the joint goal. Speaking up will inevitably improve how we think and talk to other people.
Collaboration is a two-way transmission. There will be times when you will have to speak, and there will be times when you will need to sit down and listen to what your team members have to say. If either the speaking up or listening is absent in a team, then collaboration is next to impossible.
When you listen, listen attentively. While listening, take notes. Remember when you were still at school? When your lecturer talked, you took notes. This also applies at work and group projects.
Collaboration will not happen if there is no cooperation between individuals or entities. Cooperate, if you think you have an idea in mind that can help your project reach success.
Do Your Best
Always do your best in everything you do. When the group dynamics become difficult, many people resign and stop pulling their weight in the task. They sit back almost like they are waiting for the group to fail so that they can say I told you so. This is the lowest level of collaboration. Interdependent leaders adopt the ‘Ubuntu’ principles, I am because we are.
Think about being of service before being selfish.
Most importantly, place the interests of others above your own interest. Before asking a collaborative partner to give you something, gain clarity on what you can give that party. Approach the partnership with a gift before they ask.
There are very few experiences in life more exhilarating than being part of a successful collaboration. Being part of creating something larger than our individual self-touches our souls, connects us to people, and brings a sense of satisfaction and strong workplace culture.
Lapid Leaders Africa is built on the shoulders of collaboration. We believe that the 21st century belongs to those who will learn to be collaborative. We are therefore equipping the next generation of leaders to be collaborative.
Share your Thoughts
How about you? How important is collaboration for you? You may also share to us your best and worst experiences either at work or any other environment. Comment below!