Grant Phillips of e4

When you appoint people to work in your company or your team, do you choose the best – the smartest, most qualified, most experienced person for the job? Of course you do, because that’s what will make your team shine and give your company that all-important edge.

Why, then, do some leaders still feel the need to lead from the top down?

Today, the top-down approach, where senior leadership makes all the decisions and the rest are purely there to execute, is a relic of the past. We, as leaders, employ incredibly smart people – and we do that very intentionally. To not involve them in decision-making is not only counterproductive but an incredible waste of intentional investment.

But how do you create a culture of open collaboration? At e4, we’ve made it our mission, and have garnered these insights along the way.

1. Actively listen

The first step in creating collaboration is to ensure buy-in from key stakeholders. This may not always mean unilateral alignment and agreement, but considering and debating the different views of the skilled experts you have employed is crucial. When all stakeholders have been heard and understand why a decision has been made, it’s easier to ensure commitment to the cause, which in turn drives accountability.

This empowers the workforce, giving people the authority to make decisions because they’ve bought into a common objective and know their views and input are valued. This alignment means everyone works towards a common goal, understands the role they play, and will be intentional in executing that vision.

2. Be open and honest

Leaders aren’t perfect, and your willingness to be transparent shows people they’re not alone in their struggles. Being vulnerable and having personal conversations not only creates a culture of empathy, but it means people are more open to ask for, seek and share advice, driving collaboration.

When people feel valued, they want to work. This drives accountability across an entire organisation.

It all starts with mutual respect, where people know they are valued and feel comfortable having robust conversations. Be honest about who you are as a leader, be as transparent as possible, and ask for advice when needed. You’ll soon find this becomes a two-way street.

3. Up your EQ

Flexible working is here to stay and has added a new dimension to team management. Organisations continue to mature in their approach to this, as it takes a different set of skills to be effective in this new hybrid environment.

Your ability to influence and ensure you’re getting the best out of your people becomes more critical when teams work remotely, as does your adeptness at picking up signals of stress or burnout. Leaders today need to use their EQ and intuition as much as their other skills, so consider upskilling leaders in these ‘softer’ skills. People matter, they are the life blood of your entire ecosystem.

4. Don’t neglect check-ins

The last thing you want as a leader is for mistakes to get covered up because people are afraid to admit to their faults – you want to be able to fix problems as quickly as possible.

But how do you ensure people are willing to admit to blunders? Organisational culture and the points above play a big role, but we’ve also found that setting milestones and having regular check-ins means any slip-ups can be attended to quickly. Then, we roll up our sleeves and solve the problem together.

Ensure that these milestone monitoring systems are in place, and never blame someone for a slip up – offer support to help them fix it but ensure that no mistake is repeated.

5. As within, so without

Collaboration is not only something that needs to happen inside an organisation, but with its clients as well. You need to understand clients’ challenges and solve them with a war room-type approach where all role players get together and give their input.

This is critical at the beginning of any initiative to ensure everyone is aiming in the same direction, but there also needs to be continual engagement until the point of delivery. Don’t, EVER, work in a silo. Should your client’s needs change, you need to be agile and nimble enough internally to realign to these new needs – truly putting that culture of collaboration to the test.

Every leader today knows the importance of employing the best people for the job, and these strategies will help ensure you get the best out of those people. Collaboration is not just a corporate buzzword, it’s an essential leadership strategy that will ensure your company – and its people – can thrive.

By Grant Phillips, Group CEO of the e4 Group

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