The importance of fruitful collaboration for long-term commercial sustainability is demonstrated by crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic. Companies need to put together professionals with specific, cross-functional backgrounds, especially in a crisis, to address quickly evolving, complicated challenges that have long-term consequences. The variety of experience helps a community to see threats and opportunities from various perspectives, such that new ideas can be created and dynamically adapted to changing circumstances.
However, study suggests that anxiety makes individuals very risk-averse during a crisis; they are far less likely to look at new viewpoints as a result. The drive to try to get problems under control may often lead to a go-it-alone attitude, and they prefer to fall back on behavior and solutions that have succeeded in the past, what analysts call “risk rigidity.” And people also concentrate on self-preservation when assets (finances, job openings, even physical goods) run dry throughout a crisis. As a consequence, collaboration may break down within a company. However, our study on the financial crisis of 2008 shows that collaboration contributes to better commercial results on a sustainable basis. We provide seven steps in this post that leaders should take to promote collaboration.
In hundreds of organizations, including technical support providers, financial firms, and healthcare providers, we gathered a decade’s worth of data about collaboration and financial results. We also posed open-ended questions in interviews with many of the subjects on how they managed work amid the crisis. Quite different forms of collaboration became evident. The following exhibit displays one law firm’s findings, which were common for all of the firms we analyzed.
Records of project and financial reports revealed how partners operated before, after, and during the downturn and their relative success outcomes. We removed the partners with the lowest and highest results historically and those who are in categories that were expected to prosper during a crisis, like restructuring and bankruptcy activities, in order to control anomalies. Based on the quantity of their work done with other partners and on their own, we divided the remaining 400-plus partners into deciles. Then we mapped their corresponding income generated during the time.
The findings were dramatic. Amid the crisis, the most intensely collaborative staff, the top 10 percent, expanded their organization and maintained the upward trend afterwards (look at the green line). During the recession, the output of the middle category (2nd and 3rd decile) decreased marginally, but its sales began to rebound in under a year (see yellow line). People hunkered down in the third category (the bottom 70 percent) and decreased their cooperation with others drastically. They were guarding their customers and hoarding jobs. During the recession, the sales generated by this company contracted and still did not rebound five years after the end of the recession. In other types of organizations, we have seen a similar trend.
Why were people working that way? During the recession, as complexity and tension grew, strongly collaborative people built their approach to company growth and job execution. They widened their network and grew the number of peers they worked with across practical and business silos. They were eager to chip in on the projects of others. They spoke about how they joined forces with trustworthy peers to find and seek fresh prospects as the situation grew and demand increased, even though it meant having less personal ambition on a project-by – project basis. As a consequence, they did end up focusing on a wide range of buyers or ventures, extending their bets throughout multiple forms of prospects in essence. It’s not that just home runs were hit; it’s that they had more at-bats, and as required, they played different roles.
An entirely distinct approach was adopted by self-focused, uncollaborative individuals. They built barriers around their ventures, forced away friends, tightly kept their company and customers, and collected jobs. Their network has deteriorated as a consequence of their self-interested conduct. They had no “tribe” to support them in developing new possibilities and identifying new ones. For instance, as grant funds began to run dry in one health care company, the loners struggled because they were not interested in sufficiently diverse forms of research projects to keep resources pouring into their laboratories.
The logical conclusion: during a crisis, the degree of cooperation has a significant effect on whether firms and individual workers succeed.
Here is some guidelines on how leaders might encourage collaboration:
Encourage naive questions and a positive challenge.
This was dubbed the “obligation to disagree” at McKinsey: it is not just accepted but required that individuals question the conclusions of one another and propose fresh ideas. This implies that no one thinks that she avoids appearing dumb by challenging teammates of distinct functional experiences from hers to describe their reasoning or identify a technical concept. Involving individuals with a wide spectrum of abilities in an attempt to solve new and challenging problems may help the community collectively identify possible threats or strategies that may elude individual experts, particularly when they are empowered to be inquisitive.
Watch out for hoarding behaviors.
Be creative with sources of data that might display behavioral trends inside the company: Nearly all the executives we have collaborated with have been shocked that they have access to multiple forms of data that can explain coordination patterns ( like project management databases used to track grant financing or product creation, CRM applications that reveal distribution pipelines).
Use pulse surveys to collect the self-reported behaviors of individuals where such evidence is not available; a very well-designed 3-question survey might well be done in only a few minutes and show areas where individualistic behavior is beginning to sneak in. For instance, it may ask those surveyed to what degree they agree or disagree — on a 1-to-5 scale (1 = strongly disagree; 5 = strongly agree)—with these assertions: 1) the team has a common sense of purpose; 2) there is a high level of confidence within the team; and 3) teammates regularly take credit for the efforts of others.
Connect with the front lines.
Make regular communication with entities across the hierarchy so that you have unfiltered knowledge about the behavior and mindsets of entities. (When people work remotely, this is highly critical.) Such experiences will help leaders learn how workers cope, recognize environments where go-it-alone behavior hazards are more possible, and create relations between persons so that they are more able to support one another. Arlene Zalayet, a Liberty Mutual manager with 1,800 staff in her agency, recently started conducting 18 video check-ins each month with classes, even entry-level employees. An admin worker shared how Covid-19 impacted her African-American culture in some of those town halls, prompting an important conversation about the importance of the company’s integration activities or what it would take to help multiple categories of employees during this crisis.
Strengthen the intent and priorities of the business regularly.
A conviction that their role fulfills a greater goal motivates individuals to think and behave more collectively, to be more willing to collaboration. Understanding corporate priorities easily lets customers understand how their own expertise relates to the company’s dynamic needs, but does not entirely fulfill them. Leaders ought to reduce the sense of insecurity of staff and raise their trust to reach out to coworkers. So, even though the message hasn’t shifted, that the world is changing and workers need to realize that the new path still holds, you have to repeat it.
Get the team members to think of their favorite way of operating.
That involves the leader. When you’re under tension, you’re more likely to return to your normal routine, so it’s important that you think of what kind of action comes more easily to you. Would you be more likely to pick up the phone and empathize and brainstorm with a partner as the anxiety builds or to hole up and go it alone? As part of that effort, review the behavioral evaluation you conducted the year before. And have the insights of others. For example, ask the people you’ve been taking shelter with what they’ve seen you do once you’re stressed out. When team members get more conscious of their common styles, they may begin to figure out how to use these patterns to function more successfully as a group.
Play with your strengths.
Instead of attempting to change your innate traits — that is almost difficult during the stress of a downturn — concentrate on deliberately leveraging your style to enhance teamwork. If you are instinctively attracted to teamwork, just use your passion to cultivate a sense of corps — for example, by shouting out when the group has reached even a minor milestone. Enhancing commitment and morals is not “easy work;” it contributes to quantifiable productivity increases and other “hard” business results. We have seen this directly with Gillian, a senior executive for one of the Big 4 accounting companies that we just advised. She actively builds the confidence and trust of team members with each other’s abilities by emphasizing their strengths, recognizing areas in which their experience contributes to accomplish the team’s goals, and then sharing team-based stories of success widely. If you share the orientation of Gillian’s teamwork, be careful not to overdo it and join several teams at once. Be selective and emphasis on the highest priority ventures.
If you are prone to work individually, you can also use the tendency to boost coordination by helping the execution of the drive. Sameer, the financial director of the software firm we researched, was called the “Teamwork Tsar” since he’s the one most likely to find out when working as a team is worth it and when individual work is more successful. His go-it-alone strategy is a healthy counter example that keeps the team concentrated on the mission while others would get bogged down in finding consensus, or when group conversation leads to an ineffective rabbit hole.
Leaders need to understand that it doesn’t require a single form of person to promote collaboration; they need to rely on the variety of behavioral types and mentor each team member to play their own role in boosting cross-silo work.
Champion collaborative leaders and teams.
Many leaders are undermining their talk about the value of teamwork as they direct their praise entirely on particular workers for achieving their revenue goals or working overtime. Although praising individual contributions, often recognize the group that assisted make the person a champion by calling for the specific actions it has done to offer assistance and the aspects in which all its participants have reached a mission together. In particular, as staff work at home, leaders should stress the position of support players by addressing the role of family members in making it easier for workers to be effective.
At this point, leaders should analyze and discuss workplace processes such as pay and benefit programs and recruiting policies to see if they promote or hinder a culture of cooperation. But apparently, that’s just going to have to wait until the problem has settled. Meanwhile, aim to apply these seven methods. By encouraging cross-silo collaboration, the company is more likely to withstand the hard times and succeed after they’re over.