Lip-service collaboration drastically differs from the real thing. For starters, it’s easier to talk the collaboration talk than to walk it each and every day, no matter what you are doing.
The term “collaboration” seems to be the flavor-of-the-year. Yet the folks who are wholeheartedly and passionately engaged in cross-functional collaboration are the business, engineering, IT, financial, administrative and logistic practitioners who were hard-wired that way, a long time ago.
Lip-service collaboration attempts to jump the line to achieve what others so-effortlessly seem to accomplish. Collaboration isn’t a matter of imitation. Cross-functional collaboration is a function of putting in the hard work, falling flat on your face, dealing with adversity and not settling for consensus or what’s popular.
Cross-functional collaboration involves opening more than a few cans of worms. Rather large cans at that.
Lip-service collaboration isn’t confined to one department or professional discipline. That thinking makes lip-service collaboration just that: lip-service.
True cross-functional collaboration isn’t a matter of all joining hands and singing the same departmental song. Rather, cross-functional collaboration is an odyssey of exploring possibilities, assuming risk, learning from one another, respectfully and passionately identifying sticking points and locating conceptual abysses.
Do you have the heart and courage to go there?
Cross-functional collaboration doesn’t avoid conflict on the road to establishing clarity of purpose. Collaboration acknowledges that depending on where we sit around the business table, the scientific table, the academic table and yes, the family table, we all see the same things differently.
Appreciating those differences and harnessing our collective strengths provides forward momentum for your business to grow, expand and sustain itself.
There’s no lip-service collaboration in arriving at those destinations.
Lip-service collaboration is only a façade; the real thing has infinite depth based on continually defining and redefining possibilities. Lip-service collaboration has a time-stamp; the real thing is enduring and part of your legacy.
I recently conducted a webinar on cross-functional collaboration. I polled attendees on how they rated themselves on their ability to collaborate. Everyone online (n=100) at the moment gave themselves a rousing thumbs up!
The overwhelming majority of the respondents came from a homogeneous subset of their companies: the marketing function. While I congratulated respondents on feeling that they were excellent collaborators, I cautioned them about feeling too smug in their self-assessment.
Their engineering, finance, legal, operations and project management colleagues might have skewed results in the other direction, were they in attendance. More importantly, while you tend to see yourself as a super collaborator, your colleagues in different professional disciplines might have different perspectives.
And that is exactly why cross-functional collaboration involves a lot of professional and emotional mileage and the suspension of baggage and biases.
You see, there is absolutely no place for Us versus Them mindset in cross-functional collaboration. There never was.
So take a breath. Ask yourself whether you and your colleagues, no matter what your professional discipline, are engaged in lip-service collaboration or the real thing.
What are your next steps?
Babette N. Ten Haken, President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, is a business coach and management consultant. Her Workshops create Playbooks for startups and small to mid-size companies who want to grow, expand and sustain their businesses, but wrestle with unpredictable revenue streams. Her Playbook on leadership, business development and collaboration strategies, including tools, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon.com.