4 Questions for Gauging Collaborative Leadership

Original Post by Dennis Collins

Collaboration through virtual collaboration is enabling the democratizing of data in the workplace – redefining the nature of leadership, decision making, and productivity.

Digital technology is spreading unprecedented amounts of information to more people in more places than any time in human history. And this digital transformation is driving what tech pundits have called the “democratization of data” in business.

“For the greater part of the last 50 years, data has been primarily entrusted to only two privileged groups within most business organizations,” Brent Dykes, a contributor to Forbes magazine, writes in one of his columns. “An executive who required data to effectively manage the business; or a data specialist—a business analyst, statistician, economist, or accountant—who gathered, analyzed, and reported the numbers for management. For everyone else, exposure to data has often been limited, delayed, indirect, or intermittent.”

“Companies have never had as much data as they do now… It has become the lifeblood of many digital businesses.”
– Brent Dykes

According to Dykes, digital transformation is not only diffusing business information, it’s distributing leadership within companies. “As more organizations seek to decentralize decision-making and increase responsiveness, they are seeking to empower more workers by putting meaningful data at their fingertips,” he explains in his commentary.

Unified Communications is Empowering Workforces to Use Data to Make Decisions

And Unified Communications (UC) is playing a central role in this transformative trend. We see evidence in our recent study, as more than two thirds of the organizations we surveyed have virtual collaboration tools beyond basic email and voice solutions. Here are a few telling details:

Virtual Collaboration Tool Usage

  • 68% have implemented some level of video conferencing
  • 67% have screen-sharing capabilities
  • And 43% have adopted some form of social collaboration

Collaboration Tools Are Changing the Nature of Leadership in Organizations

In a real way, virtual collaboration is enabling the democratizing of data in the workplace and, in the process, redefining the nature of leadership. Using UC tools, every member of an organization can play a part in leading a company by leading business interactions with colleagues, customers and partners.

But just because every employee can lead a collaboration session doesn’t mean each one feels prepared to do so. That’s why, in our role as developers and providers of collaboration solutions, we feel that offering some guidance is appropriate.

According to the global consulting firm McKinsey & Company, there are 20 core leadership behaviors, but only four of them “account for 89 percent of leadership effectiveness” in a business:

  1. Be supportive
  2. Operate with strong results orientation
  3. Seek different perspectives
  4. Solve problems effectively

We agree with McKinsey’s position. Furthermore, we believe these four behaviors are especially important for leading virtual collaboration. Here’s why:

  • Support for colleagues, customers and partners must be demonstrated in words and actions when your team may not be working in the same room, same building or even same time zone.
  • Focusing on results streamlines business interactions, and the potential diversity of media in virtual sessions – i.e., audio, video and graphics – heightens the demand for efficiency in communication.
  • Virtual meetings can put greater demands on attentiveness. Seeking different perspectives requires concentration, which can lend clarity to discussions.
  • In line with the three reasons expressed above, effectively solving problems saves time and energy that can be applied to other matters thereby increasing productivity.

But how do you know when you’re expressing these qualities during business interactions?

On his blog, leadership guru Dan Rockwell suggests there are three appropriate actions for each of McKinsey’s four behaviors. We turned those actions into four questions you can use as a basis for evaluating your collaborative leadership acumen:

1. Are you “supportive” in a team environment?

  • Do you show authentic interest in colleagues’ activities and ideas?
  • Do you deliberately work to build trust between colleagues?
  • Do you help teammates overcome their individual challenges?

2. Do you seek “different perspectives” inside and outside of the team?

  • Are you monitoring trends and patterns in your organization and industry?
  • Are you inviting feedback that could improve your performance, the team’s and the company’s?
  • Are you differentiating important from unimportant issues for others on the team?

3. Are you oriented for “results” working with team members and others?

  • Do you follow through consistently and persistently with assignments and communication?
  • Do you emphasize efficiency in your activities and the team’s?
  • Do you prioritize your work based on impact – and help others do the same?

4. Do you “solve problems effectively” for yourself and your team?

  • Are gathering and analyzing information before making decisions?
  • Are you deciding and then committing to these decisions?
  • Are you identifying and managing disputes constructively to support these decisions?

Rockwell sums up the importance of choosing strong leaders by highlighting it’s influence on success:

“The difference between success and failure begins with choosing the right leaders.”


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