The modern workforce is changing.
While it used to be expected for the chief executive officer (CEO) and other members of the C-suite to make all crucial decisions without the input of others, that way of thinking didn’t benefit the entire organization. It also doesn’t set employees up for success and will likely lead to the wrong decisions being made.
Instead of this way of collaborating, companies are now leaning towards finding ways to improve executive collaboration.
- What is executive collaboration?
- The benefits of executive collaboration
- 8 ways to improve your executive collaboration
What is executive collaboration?
Executive collaboration is a leadership model focusing on shared vision, mutual accountability, and collective decision making among a company’s senior leaders or executive team. This collaboration model can help create an organizational culture focused on performance, trust, and innovation.
This leadership model strives to bring team leaders, managers, executives, and other employees out of individual silos so they can work together, collaborate on decisions, and share information organically. It’s also the opposite of a top-down business model, where a small group of executives control how information is shared.
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The benefits of executive collaboration
When done correctly, executive collaboration can lead to several benefits. Let’s break them down!
- Enhanced decision making
- Strategic alignment
- Strengthened organizational culture
- Faster problem solving
Enhanced decision making
Executive collaboration ensures diverse perspectives are considered, resulting in well-informed decisions that account for various aspects of the organization. The more voices participating in the making of important decisions that will impact the entire organization, the better. Think of executive collaboration as a way to learn from one another’s backgrounds, experiences, and skills.
When top leaders collaborate, they are more likely to align their departments and teams around a shared vision and objectives. This is sometimes called the pyramid of clarity, meaning all departments know what others are working on, how all employees are working towards and supporting a shared goal, and which teams are responsible for what.
As Bruce Tulgan said in our podcast episode How to Stay Aligned in the Midst of a Collaboration Revolution,
“There’s so much responsibility on senior executives and creating alignment. The problem is that not all leaders drive alignment through the chain of command. So that puts people in a tough spot. And it means you have to go over your own head and get power so that you have the confidence to collaborate.”
Strengthened organizational culture
When employees see top leaders working together, it sets a precedent for teamwork and unity. This can lead to a more collaborative, transparent, and positive organizational culture.
When executives collaborate with others, set clear guidelines, avoid creative silos, and establish a clear communication path, this makes it possible for others to lead by example; this is because when employees can see the behavior of their leaders and managers, it’s easier for them to emulate the type of culture with their fellow team members, leading to a stronger and more efficient working environment.
Strong company culture can go a long way in terms of building teamwork, establishing trust, and encouraging consistently high-performing team members.
Faster problem solving
Challenges or roadblocks that arise can be addressed more swiftly when multiple executives collaborate. When leaders pool their knowledge and resources, this can lead to quicker resolutions. With collaborative problem solving, taking advantage of diverse skill sets and knowledge within the team makes it possible for leaders to devise a plan of action faster, producing more tangible results, and potentially saving money. Having a diverse pool of knowledge to take advantage of means that new ideas are on the table that could have been otherwise missed.
8 ways to improve your executive collaboration
Ready to start improving the executive collaboration within your organization? Here are eight ways to get started.
- Set clear goals
- Schedule regular check-ins
- Establish communication guidelines
- Engage in cross-collaboration
- Create a trusting environment
- Avoid knowledge silos
- Understand there is no playbook
- Focus on personal growth
1Set clear goals
First up, you should set clear and actionable goals. To move these goals forward, everyone needs to be informed of the vision and related objectives, and they should be properly communicated across the organization. Sharing this message means everyone is working towards the same objective as one cohesive unit.
A great way to get started here is to use a tool like Fellow and take advantage of its Objectives feature. Doing so makes it easy to stay on top of your team’s goals since you’ll be able to clearly record, define, and track the progress of your objectives and key results (OKRs) in this tool, which means you can also quickly review those objectives during your team meetings.
2Schedule regular check-ins
Next, make sure there are regular check-ins on the calendar. Having these moments to check in with one another ensures that issues can be resolved quickly, no one is left waiting with a timely question, and important conversations can take place without too much time in between. Scheduling these meetings in advance with a cadence that works best for your team also makes it easier to prepare for these check-ins ahead of time so the time spent is valuable and collaborative.
When you nail down your meeting frequency, you and other attendees will know what to expect, be able to plan accordingly, and show up prepared.
3Establish communication guidelines
From there, set up some communication guidelines. Having an internal communications plan will keep everyone in touch across all levels of your organization. This helps keep everyone on the same page about your established goals.
The guidelines your executives agree on will vary, but some options are:
- Start an internal newsletter with updates and progress reports
- Use an internal communication tool instead of email
- Lean on photos and data
Whatever guidelines your team decides to set, stick to them so nothing falls through the cracks.
4Engage in cross-collaboration
Another element that can improve executive collaboration is engaging in cross-collaboration when possible. This is when teams can achieve their highest potential by merging talents instead of being limited to one tool or group. Cross-collaboration occurs when individuals across teams work on projects or towards specific goals together, and can lead to benefits like staying aligned on projects, ensuring milestones are being met, and connecting positively with each other.
To start leaning into cross-collaboration, consider using a tool like Fellow for cross-functional meetings. These meetings can help teams agree on project roles and responsibilities, remove roadblocks, and ensure that important deadlines and milestones are always hit. Plus, with Fellow, teams can contribute asynchronously to the meeting agenda, ensuring that progress and ideas are tracked and reviewed before each meeting.
5Create a trusting environment
Collaboration can thrive when done in a trusting environment. A culture of trust can only be created with consistent time and effort—making sure that all employees feel safe and secure at work doesn’t happen overnight.
A trusting environment is one where team members have built a solid working relationship and rapport and employees aren’t afraid to ask questions, admit they need help, or share they’ve made a mistake. This type of work setting also draws consistency between words and actions, meaning leaders need to walk the walk and talk the talk.
6Avoid knowledge silos
A culture that leans into collaboration also avoids knowledge silos at all costs. A knowledge silo is a situation where one employee, team, or department can access information that is not shared with others. Knowledge silos happen most frequently when individuals or groups work in isolation and have few interactions with other teams within an organization.
For example, if only one employee knows how to do a certain task and this individual takes a week-long vacation, that task is unable to be completed without them present. This can cause significant disruptions to a team’s workflow and collaboration efforts when employees intentionally or unintentionally withhold information.
7Understand there is no playbook
How the executives collaborate at Company X may not be effective for Company Y, so remember, no playbook works for everyone. Additionally, a collaboration strategy that works well in the first half of the year isn’t guaranteed to work in the second.
Teams have to know how to find new ways to collaborate instead of sticking with one method forever. Try different strategies, approaches, and business practices that take collaboration to the next level, and never be afraid to mix it up!
8Focus on personal growth
On an individual level, collaboration exposes executives to different leadership styles, strategic approaches, and industry knowledge; this leads to personal and professional growth, which gives them the tools needed to be able to collaborate with others more effectively.
Even if this new knowledge isn’t able to be applied in their current role, you never know how a leadership style or information can come in handy down the line in a different position.
Executive collaboration can create a more positive working environment for the C-suite leaders and employees across all departments. This change in how executives collaborate with one another can spark a ripple effect that all employees can positively feel, leading to better alignment, improved communication, and a greater understanding of company goals.