Human beings are social animals, which should lend itself well to collaborative situations — particularly in the workplace. Not so, says Stephen Willis, Ph.D., speaker and author of the Power of Collaboration book series. “If an organization is not hanging together well, it’s going to come out on the bottom line — something really bad can go wrong. Or it could just affect bottom line profitability,” he states.
Willis should know, having coached CEOs and management of several Fortune 500 companies, non-profit organizations, and startups. Willis’ upcoming book in the Power of Collaboration series attempts to cast a wider net on what it means to collaborate. “I start by covering [in the book] a handful of very high profile disasters, that are clearly related… to a lack of collaboration. Every company, every organization, every relationship has the potential to have these disaster-prone circumstances as part of their situation,” he says.
Willis’ work is based on the Power Through Collaboration (PTC) formula, a theory he created that breaks down the operational facets to collaboration. There are seven steps to actualizing collaboration that are the basis of his previous two books, The Formula for Success in Challenging Situations and When to Collaborate, Negotiate, or Dominate.
An illuminating study conducted by Cornerstone On Demand in 2013 revealed that 38% of workers feel there’s a lack of collaboration in the workplace. Employees are motivated to collaborate when they receive positive recognition of input shared (50%), encouragement from management (41%), and more freedom to easily share input with different departments (33%).
A competitive atmosphere creates employees whose only aim is survival or subservient workers that are not going to be highly collaborative. “If you have employees that feel that management is predatory or management is competing with them, they are not going to be responding very collaboratively, they are going to respond defensively and in kind,” emphasizes Willis.
Willis’ objective is to show why collaboration is essential to all companies for success in the long run, even at the employee level. After all, it’s your staff that creates services and products, as well as interacts with your customers. Which is why his website, Power Through Collaboration, offers surveys to anyone interested in analyzing their own collaboration profile and what might motivate others to collaborate with them.
The first survey is a fascinating foray into what collaboration type you are and compares it to others on the scale. Willis has identified stakeholders that have input in a collaboration process. There’s a Collaborator — the type of personality who is willing to give input and feedback positively. Next is a Cooperator, this personality works well with the Collaborator — by feeding off each other to finish a project or accomplish an end goal. The three personality types that interfere the most in a creative process is the Competitor, Enslaver, and Predator.
These three can disrupt a collaboration process, but Willis says it depends on how prevalent these personality types are in a company’s culture. If an organization cultivates forced rankings, for example, that will encourage competitiveness and predatorial behavior.
The second survey is an accompaniment to the first, by comparing motivations. What motivates you or someone else to collaborate? The results of each survey is a glimpse into how well you and your team are relating and working together.
As Willis concludes, his surveys are are meant to provide simple tools. “I wanted to give a quick and easy sense of what it’s all about. How to apply it and think about it. Give people a step beyond just the formula and how they could potentially use it to be more successful.”