Insights

Competition and Collaboration

The spirit of competition is central to our lives and to our understanding of the free market economy. But when that spirit of competition bleeds into the relationships within our organizations, there are only losers, not winners. Unlike times gone by, the future will belong not to the most successfully competitive, but to the most creatively collaborative.

Leaders can build great collaboration among their staff by focusing on one core belief and one fundamental skill:

  • The belief: I must be as equally committed to the success of my colleagues as I am to my own success.
  • The skill: I must be able to discover the needs and interests of others and connect my own to theirs.

There is a vast difference between not sabotaging colleagues in another department and being committed to their success. If your team is doing well, if your department is well funded, and if your service is effectively delivered, the challenge to collaborate is at its greatest. We tend to consider collaboration when we are in need. But great organizations are full of people who look for ways to collaborate all the time. They do this because they know that excellence is held back by internal competition and turfism. They seek to move beyond a self-preserving posture to one that genuinely engages with others to understand their challenges and consider collaborative strategies that will help others meet their challenges. Leaders must embrace this belief and model it through bold action.

Collaborating for Lasting Success

Discovering the needs and interests of others is easier said than done. We think we know others’ needs or interests when, in fact, we may only know their “position”—their stated goals or their opinions. Their needs and interests are usually unspoken. Skill in asking powerful questions and listening deeply for the answers are the keys to uncovering this critical data. Everyone can learn these skills and with practice get better at them. Once known, finding the connections between your interests and needs and those of the others becomes the challenge. Creativity, facilitation skills and a genuine commitment to one another’s success can make great things possible.

Every organization, whether public or private, will need to build greater collaboration skills for future success. An investment in learning and practicing these beliefs and skills will pay dividends to the organization for the long term.

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