Two Reasons Why Collaboration Isn’t Happening On Your Team

Published July 30, 2018


CollaborationLeading Others

It was my first meeting with the president of a global Christian organization, with whom I was so happy to be working. He had called me to help him with the leadership development of his Executive Team. As we were getting to know each other, I casually said, “It’s going to be fun working with you and your team because here I can talk about the spiritual aspects of leadership development, and I usually don’t get to do that.”

“Wait! Hold on a minute,” he said as he jumped out of his seat. “We don’t need any spiritual stuff here. These are very godly people—very spiritually mature. What we need is leadership development.”

“I think the two have a lot to do with each other,” I told him, “Tell me the leadership issues you are encountering.”

“Well,” he said, “I need leadership help with my team. I can’t get them to work together. They all just protect their own departments and won’t share information or resources. They are so protective of what they are doing. They are not collaborating like I need them to. They don’t work together on the bigger picture.”

“These are the ‘godly’ men you were talking about?” I asked.

My Bible says, “Love does not insist on its own way.” (1 Cor 13:5) and to get results, a team requires “mutual affection.” (2 Peter 1:7) This sounded like a conversation about spiritual maturity to me. “Let’s just focus on what they need to do differently,” I said.

So we went to work on the topic of collaboration.

Teams often have a tendency to avoid collaboration and only seek their own goals, initiatives and worries.

This is a story I have encountered so many times. The result is that everyone suffers. In most organizations, to get stuff done, we need others to collaborate and work with us. That is the nature of an “organization.”

Here are two of the most common reasons for a lack of collaboration:

1) The absence of a leader who brings a team together around a very defined shared purpose and a few shared goals

Many times, each person or department has their own goals and agendas. But beyond a forgotten “mission statement,” teams often do not talk about their shared goals. A shared goal is when everyone is working on the same goal, with each doing a different part and needing each other to reach that goal.

  • Let’s say the shared goal for the year is to add 100 families to the church… How can the adult ministries get their numbers up without taking into consideration what the high schoolers are going to need, planning with them in mind, and also have the high school ministry plan things that will work for parents?
  • Let’s say the shared goal is to increase the company’s exposure through advertising… How can the finance group find the money, if the production people are not getting their accounting reports in on time to free up the funds?
  • Let’s say the shared goal is to update the company’s brand design… If marketing is more interested in the coolness of their design than how it actually lands with the customers that sales needs to interact with, how will that work?

The truth is we need each other. Leaders must spend significant time building their teams around an understanding of the shared goals. There is no such thing as a win for the individual team if the mission is not winning.

2) The absence of a leader who holds people accountable to clearly defined roles and tasks

In the second instance, the leader has failed to get the team together to really talk with each other DIRECTLY and tell each other what they need from each other in order to fulfill their part of the targeted goal. These conversations can be hard. They include accountability. Example: “Jessica, we need you to keep us in the loop and inform us least two weeks before you launch any communications that will impact us.”

The truth is that collaboration requires role clarity and a system of accountability. Leaders on collaborative teams must spend significant time addressing definition of roles, as well as assigning tasks and schedules.

Bottom line: Collaboration is an unwavering commitment of the understanding that unity, oneness and working together for a shared goal are the highest values.

Collaboration must be pretty powerful if God moved to keep all the humans from being able to do it for their own purposes, knowing its power: “The Lord said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.'” (Genesis 11:6)

But today, He has commanded us to have that kind of unity so nothing will be impossible for us. As Jesus prayed, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17: 11)

Leaders are to do the same. Protect your mission and your people, by executing oneness through collaboration.

About the Author
Henry Cloud is a clinical psychologist, acclaimed leadership expert and best-selling author.

Henry Cloud

Clinical Psychologist & Acclaimed Leadership Expert

Leadership University

Dr. Henry Cloud is a clinical psychologist, acclaimed leadership expert and best-selling author. He draws upon his experience in business and his background as a clinical and consulting psychologist to impart practical and effective advice for improving leadership skills, personal relationships and business performance.

Years at GLS 1996, 2005, 2011, 2013, 2016

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