I recently wrote about leadership and achieving success in change management programmes. This week, I am writing about collaborative leadership, which is emerging as a fundamental leadership skill in business today.

What is collaborative leadership?

Collaborative leadership is a different kind of leadership according to Hank Rubin, author and founder of the Institute of Collaborative Leadership. It is the process of leading collaboratively across business functions and beyond the boundaries of an organisation.  I am starting to understand more about this leadership style and how this leadership method promotes effective project management.

Through my years in consulting I recognise that office workers spend the majority of their time in meetings or answering requests from co-workers. The amount of time that a worker spends on collaborative work has also increased; this could be as result of technology focussed projects, integrating new software or supporting the channel shift to digitalise. These projects require time from your workforce so that the project outcomes are successful.

The more a person collaborates in change projects, the less time they have for their own work. This can result in a 'bottleneck' of decisions or hindrances to the progress of a project. Resourceful employees can often be regularly chosen to collaborate on projects, because of their ability or connections to the projects success. The impact, however, over time is that the employee starts to experience burn-out or even brown-out (a more silent version of burn out) because of the effort required from them. 

So how can senior executives implement collaborative leadership?

1. Start with authentic leadership; straightforward reaching of the outcomes of the project or business goal, and following through on those responsibilities. Too often, I see managers lose sight of this point. It's attractive to be able to promote projects on your CV, however you need to complete the project successfully and have a compelling story to share.

2.  Strive regularly for clarity on decision making, so it is clear how decisions are made. It helps avoid a bottle-neck and moves issues forward quickly. 

3.  Consider the people in the project; evaluate how to improve their time on the project by reviewing and planning in advance the level of effort required to meet the project outcomes; assess which co-workers can assist in supporting the project tasks to alleviate time pressure. 

4. Develop a common vocabulary, not management speak! Give the project a name; this promotes innovation and cohesion.  For example, a recent project I worked on was called Project Kaizen (Japanese for 'continuous improvement'). The project name was used on email correspondence, project minutes and the project plan. It was good practice and is a great reminder of the project purpose.

To help address the issue of running multiple projects and reducing the negative impact on your top talent, consider employing a senior officer that can champion managing teamwork as a collaborative leader, and who will become an additional resource to deliver work effectively.

For more information on project management and leadership development, email anita@tigrismanagement.com