How to Create a Collaborative Approach to Work

As an executive, it’s your job to make sure that the team or your employees meet deadlines, provide deliverables, and continue to progress on the goals of the company. To accomplish all of these goals, it may seem like you need to know exactly what’s going on all the time. But micromanagement and overbearing leadership can have a negative effect on productivity, initiative, and goal metrics.

This is the age-old problem that executives and leaders face: “How can I lead this team while toeing the line between being a dictator and getting things done?” The key, rather than expecting your leadership skills to increase productivity, is to create a collaborative team environment. This way, your employees will be productive and motivated, and you can still establish authority and maintain boundaries.

Creating a Collaborative Team Environment

For most executives, their first (and ongoing) task is trying to maximize employee skills. One of the best ways to do this is to create an environment where they feel comfortable among their peers and superiors.

Rather than trying to micromanage or be everyone’s best friend, try creating an entire team of people that can rely on one another - not just on you. To do this:

  • Establish roles clearly. You are the executive/manager/project leader. Give everyone else on the team a specific role - along with a descriptor of what that role involves. This way, whenever something comes up, there’s someone specifically designated to solve it.

  • Get clear on the team and company goals. When everyone knows the “big picture” goal, it makes the daily work and your direction much easier to follow. It also serves as a way to bond with coworkers and teammates who are working towards the same goal together.

  • Develop trust. As the leader of a team or group of employees, it’s important that they trust you enough to listen to you and follow the goals you’ve outlined for them. To do this, make sure that you are available for open communication, that you provide positive feedback, and that you don’t pick “favorites” or sides.

  • Expect open communication. Part of establishing roles and goals is being able to express oneself in the workplace. If your employees do not feel they can communicate, you’re not going to get collaboration (or complete projects).

These are constantly evolving steps, and they are not “one and done.” You, as an executive, need to ensure that collaborative efforts stand the test of time. You also need to make sure you establish your own boundaries.

Avoid Crossing the "Just a Coworker" Line

So many executives try the “part of the gang” approach to leadership, hoping that their employees respond to their fun personalities and easy approachability. Of course, this can have the same effects as micromanagement. Even worse, employees and fellow executives may start to write off your authority as a leader.

When creating a culture of collaboration, it’s important to foster that among the employees themselves - and to build boundaries for yourself. While coworkers and peers can rely on each other, you need to make sure that they can function (and collaborate) without your constant involvement.

Encourage role development and open communication among employees, while making yourself available for troubleshooting and continued long-term goal development. This way, the team will feel connected to one another, and also have confidence in their own initiative and abilities.