Creating Collaborative Workplace Cultures

by Janet Sernack

Some CEO’S, executive teams and leaders mistakenly assume that organizational culture is simply a social phenomenon that they have no control over, and cannot impact. Yet, according to Gallup, CEO’s, executive teams and leaders are the key catalysts towards creating a collaborative workplace culture. This is because culture is more about connecting with & sharing people’s values and beliefs, understanding & hearing their thoughts, developing positive rituals and supportive and aligned communication, reward and recognition systems as well as encouraging and role modelling constructive behaviors.

These factors wield enormous influence over people’s beliefs, mindsets, levels of engagement, actions and decisions, effecting performance, safety, diversity and inclusion, strengths, compliance and innovation. Especially as many organizations are moving towards initiating agile transformations, where the most fundamental and critical success factor is the ability to develop and support implementation efforts by creating a collaborative workplace culture.

Illustrated by ANZ Banking Groups Manager of omnichannel, Christian Venter’s statement – one of the key executives that has led an agile transformation at the Adobe Summit 2019 in Las Vegas – “In many organisations today, work is siloed: it comes in, it goes into one specialist team, it moves to the next, moves to the next, and it moves to the next. Those handoffs are killing your organisation right now.” Reinforcing that it’s not just about disrupting and breaking up silo’s, it’s also creating seamless connections across geographic and demographic boundaries, differing industries, structures and technologies and diversely different ethnic groups.

Compete or collaborate?

There is very challenging and complex situation here in Oz, as organizational cultural data, amassed over the past twenty-five years, constantly reminds us, that many of our organization’s core cultural instinct is to win by competing, and not by collaborating.

As a transformational leadership facilitator and executive coach, I have come across many organizations where the CEO created intense competition among senior executives in the leadership team, which may be considered a smart move if their motivation was to work together to out-compete the external competition. Instead, their motivation tended to be internally focussed, to out-compete each other, to show who was the lone, smartest individual, whilst depreciating the efforts and contribution of others. Commonly known as the “Tall poppy syndrome”– describing aspects of a culture where people of high status are resented, attacked, cut down, strung up or criticized because they have been classified as superior to their peers. Colliding with another common Australian cultural syndrome, commonly known as “white-anting” – which is often used in reference to groups such as political parties, organisations and individuals where information from insiders is ‘leaked’ or used to undermine individual, or the goals of the group. Applying the termite (white ant) metaphor, where termites are known to eat the inside of wooden building foundations, often leaving no outward evidence, until the structure (team or organization) crumbles. Resulting in workplace culture where arrogance, back stabbing, in-fighting and resource hoarding, become habitual ways of getting things, where there is minimal safety and permission to challenge the status quo, and mistrust rules.

If you want to create a workplace culture that will produce breakthrough results that digital, agile and other business transformations are built to achieve, then collaboration trumps competition by a long shot. New ways of rapidly interacting

Whilst conventional team development approaches are still relevant, and foundational to organizational success, there are other needs to be met in our disruptive world. Including the need to:

  • Provide a unified face to customers,
  • Be agile and make faster decisions,
  • Share resources to reduce costs,
  • Work interdependencies to improve efficiencies and productivity,

and finally, to solve bigger, more complex problems.

In fact, technology is also supporting the development of collaborative platforms and ecosystems, which serve multiple functions, including facilitating (and sometimes profiting from) the innovation of others, expanding reach and collaboration, and enabling new multiparty solutions and offerings to customers.

Alternately, to harness people’s potential for change and innovation, other reasons for advancing a collaborative workplace culture, involve;

  • Engaging, enrolling and aligning people in the organizations passionate purpose,
  • Being values led, with clearly defined supportive behaviours, systems and symbols to build the trust and safety that co-creation and collaboration need to be successful.

Focussing on up-skilling people’s confidence, capacity and competence in collaborative skills and practices enables them to creatively challenge and disrupt the status quo in ways that maximize differences and diversity through flowing with constructive tension, discord and conflict. Doing this enables people to develop discomfort resilience, to connect, explore, discover and invent co-creative solutions to complex business problems.

Join the next free monthly innovation webinar in our Making Innovation a Habit Series – “Coaching on the cusp of disruption” It’s on Thursday, 13th June 2019 at 9.00pm Sydney & Melbourne, 7.00pm Perth & Hong Kong, 12.00pm London, 1.00pm Berlin, 7.00am New York. Register now. In just 45 minutes learn how the leadership and coaching playing fields have shifted, and how, as innovation coaches we lead the way by enabling our clients to survive and thrive through exponential change and disruption.

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Janet Sernack is an ICF ACC accredited executive coach, corporate trainer, group facilitator and culture and change consultant with some of Australia’s and Israel’s top 100 companies. She is the Founder of ImagineNation™ an innovation education company that provides innovation e-learning programs including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program™ experiential learning events including The Start-Up Game™. Follow @JanetSernack


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