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To Collaborate, or Not to Collaborate – That is the Question


verb col·lab·o·rate \ kə-ˈla-bə-ˌrāt \

  1. To work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor

  2. To cooperate with or willingly assist an enemy of one's country and especially an occupying force

  3. To cooperate with an agency or instrumentality with which one is not immediately connected

According to Webster’s Dictionary, collaboration is essentially the act of bringing others together (although that 2nd definition was quite interesting to read).

Collaboration is a core value to effective teams and to many a definition of a great corporate culture. But how does collaboration work with leadership? Do you have to have everybody on board with every decision ever made? Do you have to have even some group buy-in before making a decision? And if you don’t, are you deemed authoritarian and dictatorial?

There is always a time and a place for collaboration – it’s just how you bring it to life.


So the idea behind collaboration is that you are bringing people together. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the group is making the decision – it just means that they are informed. There will be times – especially in crisis – when a leader has to step up and make a decision swiftly, which is the exact opposite of collaboration. So how do you bring collaboration and decisiveness together? Simple: effective communication.

Consider these strategies:

  1. Transparency: make sure that you are open and upfront with your team. Be forthcoming on the expectations of the situation letting them know whether this will be a group decision, a situation for group input, or a situation where they will be informed only.

  2. Openness: create a culture of open dialogue and integrity. Let your team know that you appreciate unique ideas and challenges to status quo – even if that means they are challenging you – even if it is after the fact.

  3. Ownership: let your team know that you value their opinions and will weigh their input greatly, but at the end of the day, you are the one that has to make the decision and will carry the burden if it is wrong (and share the love with them if the decision is right)

If your team feels that their ideas are valued, respected and you regularly seek their input, collaboration can be found everywhere – even when you have to make a decision without them.

Inspired in part by Emmy Beeson.

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