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Survival of the fittest?

Have you ever worked for a CEO that created intense competition among the leadership team? Or, a manager that hired two people to do the same job and didn’t tell them that his intention was to keep one and fire the other based on results.

I have very clear memories of one CEO I reported to that was so insecure he gave each person on the leadership team just one piece of critical information. Only he knew the whole picture. This tactic caused the team to feel unsafe and dispensable. We were told not to share our information with anyone, so we transitioned into a secretive culture. The end result was that everyone retreated to their offices, doors closed, to avoid in-fighting as we searched for ways to complete projects. All communication closed down. It was inefficient, costly and unnecessary.

Does a survival of the fittest mentality ever work? Sometimes, but only with transparency in an environment that supports healthy competition on a project by project basis. In that case, it can generate powerful results because everyone is working toward the same goal - just exploring different avenues to get there. At the end of the competition, the employees know that it is over, and they are expected to revert to sharing best practices once again.

We know that when employees are not in a fight or flight mode, they are more creative and innovative without fear of reprisal. Information, opinions and perspectives are freely shared, morale improves, and trust is built. Not to mention the fact that stress levels lower and good health scores increase. Projects move faster and quality increases exponentially with collaboration.

Collaboration isn’t a buzzword or a fad - it’s an essential part of how we need to operate to be successful in today’s world of values-based business. It’s the new competitive edge. Collaboration, both internally and externally, drives market share. It can be more efficient, less expensive and save time when we access ecosystems of technology, talent and information rather than depleting own resources and capabilities.

Studies show that collaborative companies are more profitable, productive, and efficient, with higher customer satisfaction and lower turnover. A values-driven culture that emphasizes autonomy and collaboration, is far more adaptable and therefore more likely to succeed.

Looking outward, external partnerships create advantages because the path to success is often being a critical cog in a much bigger play than your singular business. Alliances have clear objectives to build skills and capacity but, they only work if they are transparent about each party’s contribution and, everyone stands on the same playing field. Together they are stronger against outsiders than they are alone if each party contributes something distinctive to the alliance.

In the new spirit of social consciousness, business trends are moving toward community and open collaboration. It manifests physically as we see modern office design with open layouts that allow people to stay connected. Collaboration tools are on the rise including Slack, Basecamp, Google Docs, Doodle, WhatsApp, Popplet, Box and others which allow employees, remote or otherwise, to work together on team projects while they keep other members current on their progress.

From internal to external, from day to day tasks to life changing issues, we are all in this boat together. Ultimately, in today’s world of complex and interconnected issues, the business world is beginning to realize that it has shared obligations and objectives to fix communal problems. A divided world and fragmented communities are seeking collaborative leadership. There is a strong message to all the sectors to put aside self-interests and unite to make a positive impact and show the world that together we are stronger. It’s no longer about the last man standing.

Copyright © 2019

Linda Lattimore - all rights reserved

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