Collaboration is key

The phrase “There is no ‘I’ in teamwork,” reminds me of how many people I have coached over the years who had a hard time with wanting to be the one in control and recognized for results.

The truth is collaboration helps us to make a difference. Through partnering with our customers, community, employees and co-workers; we strengthen our success by creating a feeling of oneness.

While some companies settle for mere acceptance of the decisions made, other leaders understand that if they can bring their teams to agreement they will get more support for their vision, mission, values and goals. For greater unity, leaders understand that they need to align their team members to the important initiatives and actions needed to move their company forward.

However, to create optimal results, leaders understand that giving employees mutual authority, along with responsibility in the creation, management and execution of the strategic plan, they will get the highest level of unity and success possible. Why? Because people support what they help create.

How do you know if you are operating from mutual authority? Here are just a few behavioral characteristics that you will see:

  • The CEO includes the board in decisions, and doesn’t just tell the board what they want them to know.
  • The CEO asks customers what they need and think.
  • The CEO asks the employees how they will fulfill these needs and considers their input.
  • Employees have input on the strategic plan.
  • Employees collaborate with each other on issues and stay focused on the company’s goals.

We also know we are operating from unity and allowing mutual authority, when these three values are present:

  • Honesty
  • Collaborative communication
  • Mutual focus

Honesty means we are not afraid to say, “We have a problem.” Instead of being afraid to speak up, there is an encouragement to not cover up or deny issues.

Collaborative communication gives mutual authority to those that will have the responsibility to solve the issue at hand. We do this because we believe in their expertise, as well as recognize and understand that their contribution is vital.

Collaboration is a relating style that acknowledges and appreciates the full engagement of others, because there is a belief that all have something important to offer towards successful results.

Collaboration begins with an acceptance of a need or problem to be resolved, and starts with a problem solving statement where everyone agrees and therefore is unified. While we may disagree on how to solve the problem at first, and therefore need to collaborate, unity begins when we agree on the problem statement.

The statement could be anything from:

  • We agree that we see our customer niche as different.
  • We agree that we have different viewpoints on what is needed for growth.
  • We agree that we have different priorities right now

…and so on.

The point is we agree that a problem exists and that we want to find a common place to build from.

Note that just naming what you agree on, versus disagree on, creates unity because there is an acceptance and an agreement of the disagreement.

Next, to create unity, each party involved in the responsibility of the issue at hand, needs to be heard. So I recommend that one person go at a time and the others provide feedback on what they heard before speaking their point of view.

Collaboration doesn’t mean compromise. Nor does it mean one person is right and gets to dominate. It means that each party heard what the other said, and opens up to the possibility that perhaps that discussion will lead to yet another possibility that will be valued by all.

Developing a mutual focus means there are no hidden agendas or voices; passive-aggressive behaviors; or aggressive acts of power. Instead the focus is to come up with a solution that is focused around reaching the company’s goals. As a result, the goals are kept in the forefront of the collaborative conversation as solutions are being considered.

Moving your company culture’s decision-making from acceptance-to-agreement-to-alignment-to-mutual authority can be a big adjustment for many leaders. Involving employees, and other stakeholders, from the beginning by engaging them early on in the strategic planning process may mean giving up some of the power. But what you get in return is more “ownership,” understanding of the goals, and greater results.

Challenge: Where can you begin to give more mutual authority at work? n

Copyright Susan K. Wehrley, excerpt from her upcoming book, “Advancing the Entrepreneurial Spirit.”

Susan K. Wehrley has been a coach and strategic growth consultant for 25 years, as president of Susan K. Wehrley & Associates Inc.( She is also the founder and CEO of, their subsidiary online growth community ( You can reach Susan at (414) 581-0449 or

Sign up for BizTimes Daily Alerts

Stay up-to-date on the people, companies and issues that impact business in Milwaukee and Southeast Wisconsin

No posts to display