Most of us are familiar with the thought-provoking question of whether Leaders are made or born. Yet, we often – incorrectly – assume that Teamwork and Collaboration are more a result of shared values rather than a skill-set which can be developed and nurtured.

Francesca Gino, a behavioural scientist at Harvard Business School, is an advocate for the need to coach teamwork and collaboration, rather than waiting for it to magically occur. In her research, Professor Gino identified six training techniques that “enable leaders and employers to cooperate, learn from one another, and overcome the psychological barriers that get in the way of doing both.”

  1. Teach people to listen: There is a skill in really attending to what another person is saying. (Sadly, there is more work for ‘speaking coaches’ than there is for ‘listening coaches’).
  2. Train people to practice empathy: Being open and receptive to another person’s views – especially if they clash with our own – can prove a real challenge. However, Professor Gino’s research demonstrated that when we seek to understand, rather than to be understood, more solutions to present challenges become apparent.
  3. Help people get comfortable with feedback: It is common for us to experience an aversion to feedback. However, we can reduce this aversion by; making it a regular part of the workplace, highlighting the benefits of feedback to individuals and the group (including examples), and for the leaders to request and act on the feedback of their direct reports and colleagues (i.e. modelling the desired behaviour).
  4. Explaining the need for people to lead and follow: We all have a role to play within our respective teams. However, that role may change, dependant upon the situation we are presented with. In her article; “Cracking the Code of Collaboration”, Francesca Gino shares the successful collaboration of world experts to safely rescue 17 boys from a flooded cave in Thailand during 2017. While many involved in the rescue were highly regarded as leaders in their respective fields, many adopted the role of follower during the event, playing their part in a successful collaborative effort.
  5. Communicate with clarity: Pixar Animations hosts a series of communication classes with their people, including one role-playing exercise where participants are required to communicate a message to a colleague. Prior to presenting their message, they are required to have a clear understanding of; “What am I trying to accomplish“. This exercise encourages the communicator to ensure they incorporate clarity and purpose into their message.
  6. Coach people to seek win-win outcomes: Only when we investigate the needs of our colleagues (or clients) can we deliver win-win outcomes. You may only have one lemon and each person wants it. However, if one person requires it for the juice, while the other only needs the rind, we can arrive at a win-win solution. This is unlikely to occur if we don’t ask the right questions around individual needs.

The benefits of teamwork and positive collaboration are many and can be developed within existing teams or coached into new teams, with desirable and observable outcomes.


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