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Things are definitely changing as we move towards the future of work, especially when it comes to leadership and how organizations are run. We’ve already talked about the skills managers will need in the future, but this week’s discussion focused on a slightly different topic—collaborative-focused leadership. A number of forward-thinking companies are moving more towards collaboration through crowdsourcing, hiring talent on demand, and creating teams that are diverse and multi-disciplinary. How has the rise of collaboration affected leadership, and what does it take to drive facilitation? Our community members weighed in with some fascinating insights.
As workplaces become more diverse and human, collaboration is a great way to bring in more points of view and challenge the status quo. In order for that collaboration to be effective, it must be led by skilled facilitators. As Managing Partner Ahmad Mansur said, “Facilitation is a skill that provides people an opportunity to engage each other as a divergent process with emergent results. Solving business challenges is a stakeholder-driven process.” Non Executive Director Jesper Toft agreed, saying that he believes the future of work will feature facilitator and coach roles in teams, especially when it comes to HR. Most community members agreed that facilitation is a vital skill for leaders to have in the future—not every situation calls for collaboration, but knowing when and how to facilitate a productive discussion can be incredibly useful.
Although collaboration involves multiple points of view and employees, Senior Marketing Manager Vicky Sparey pointed out that strong vision and shared objectives are still key at the start of a facilitation. Instead of the traditional method of sharing an agenda before a meeting or brainstorming session, many facilitators suggest leaving it open to team members, which helps them be more creative and open to new ideas. Others suggested simply sharing the meeting’s objectives beforehand instead of having a point-by-point agenda to work through; this method keeps people on the same page and working towards the same goal while skill allowing for creativity.
Collaboration isn’t without its challenges. As team members have the ability to work remotely and collaborate via technology, it can become more difficult to maintain engagement and build relationships within the team. Foresight Consultant Daniel Riveong, who led the discussion, said that he has used tools like Adobe Connect that allow larger groups to break into smaller teams for more personalized discussion before coming back to share with the larger group, which creates workshop-type facilitation, even when it happens online. Community member Wayne Bunker addressed the challenges he has faced by having limited collaboration technology and having to work with people on conference calls. During those situations, his organization tries to acknowledge remote people first and check in with them at each stage of the meeting, but having team members only on the phone takes away the non-verbal cues that are so important in interpersonal discussions. Each situation requires a different approach, and more tools and techniques are needed. In the future, we might move more towards AR and VR-driven collaboration, which could drastically change things and require an entirely different skillset.
Good facilitators also need strong interpersonal skills and need to be interested in everyone’s view rather than just pushing their own agenda. Learning Designer Lars Hoffman said the easy side of facilitation is opening up to new ideas, but the difficult side is facilitating criticism and conflict. As Co Founder of The Missing Chair, Sonia Cluff said, there is a difference between a team working together where everyone has a different problem-solving technique and a team led by a facilitator who gets everyone to use the same problem-solving technique. In the end, most people agreed that facilitating is a vital leadership skill, but facilitators don’t necessarily have to be the organization’s leaders.
Collaboration is a powerful way to challenge the status quo and involve more employees and team members. For effective collaboration and facilitation, leaders need to be ready to address challenges related to emotions and technology to tap into the strength of every team member.
My new book, The Employee Experience Advantage (Wiley, March 2017) analyzes over 250 global organizations to understand how to create a place where people genuinely want to show up to work. Subscribe to the newsletter here or become a member of the new Facebook Community The Future If… and join the discussion.