Curt Fowler: Collaborating for High Performance

Curt Fowler

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

“Competition makes us faster; Collaboration makes us better.” 

Collaboration creates high-performing teams and organizations. Collaboration is not coordination, cooperation or teamwork.

Coordination is working individually and then handing off to another person or department. The handoff is coordinated but the two parties are pursuing their own goals, not the greater goal of the organization.

Cooperation is when one party helps another out. The salesperson calls in a favor to the shipping team to meet a customer’s need. They cooperated.

Teamwork involves multiple parties working toward the same goal but the team is static.

Collaboration brings resources from various areas together to create something better or to solve a complex problem. The resources can come from different departments, teams, locations and even other organizations. These resources are brought together to meet a goal that they could not accomplish alone – or at least not as effectively as they can together.

Blanchard highlights the example of The Nature Conservancy and Dow Chemical Company working together to integrate the value of nature into business decisions. That collaboration led to better business and environmental outcomes.

Collaboration requires a framework to succeed. Blanchard lays out the following Four Key Predictors of collaboration success:

– Mission, Goals and Results: Collaboration is a way to meet the organization's mission, goals and desired results. Collaboration should only be deployed when it can bring the organization closer to accomplishing its mission, goals, and results.

– Culture and Values: Collaboration must be baked into the organization’s DNA via its core values. If collaborative behavior is not explicitly stated in the core values, modeled and applauded, it won’t happen.

– Leadership and Empowerment: Leaders must model collaboration and train their staff on how to collaborate well. Empowerment is one of the hardest skills for leaders to master. Over or under-supervision stifles collaboration. Empowerment takes practice and clarity.

– Systems, Structures, and Policies must reward collaboration and correct those who are failing to collaborate well. Rewards must be based on collective results or we inadvertently reward individualism.

Collaboration is instinctive. Competition is learned. Get a group of young children playing in a sandbox and ask them to build the biggest castle possible. The collaboration is pretty amazing. No leader, all production. How do we lose that great skill? Rewards are given to individuals and resources are restricted. These actions encourage us to look out for ourselves rather than the greater good. Leaders must be careful what they reward.

Next week, we’ll dive it Blanchard’s best practices for collaboration. If you want to dive deeper and have a great handbook for building great organizations, grab a copy of “Leading at a Higher Level.” It is an excellent resource and reference for building high-performance organizations.

We love helping leaders build great companies and we’ve got some great free resources for you in our Resource Library. You can check them out here - or give us a call at 229.244.1559. We’d love to help you in any way we can.

Curt Fowler is president of Fowler & Company and director at Fowler, Holley, Rambo & Stalvey.

Curt and the team at FHRS help leaders build great companies through Fractional CFO, strategy, tax and accounting services.

Curt is a syndicated business writer, keynote speaker, and business advisor. He has an MBA in strategy and entrepreneurship from the Kellogg School, is a CPA and a pretty good guy as defined by his wife and five children. (Welcome Baby Owen – June 2021!)