The Collaboration Tug of War

With the abundant technology we have today, you would think cross-functional collaboration would be easier than ever.

It’s not.

While email, web conferencing, and instant messaging have facilitated communication required for collaboration, these technologies are still only a medium for connecting people. Collaboration is accomplished by people. Not machines. Unfortunately, people are not always great at it.

What is cross-functional collaboration?

Cross-functional collaboration is the process of people from different teams or functions within the same company—engineering, marketing, sales, and human resources—joining forces to work on a common goal, project, or responsibility.
Because functions often operate in silos, companies have long strived to boost collaboration in an effort to align cross-functional activities and strategies. Unfortunately, this challenge has only grown more difficult and important for organizations. The speed of market changes, business complexities, the shift from hierarchical to matrixed organizations, and an increase in diverse workforces have all complicated collaboration.
A collaboration “Tug of War” has begun—where people pull in different directions by implementing varying tools and disjointed approaches.

However, putting three uniform methods to use can get people back on the same side of the rope and winning the cross-functional collaboration challenge:

1. Influence without having authority: Today, employees need to influence others with different priorities, goals, perspectives, and communication styles in order to get things done, all while having no direct hierarchical relationship. By building meaningful relationships and tapping all sources of influence, you gain credibility, get buy-in on ideas, create an environment of inclusivity, foster empowerment, and create a more engaged workforce.


2. Build trust and alignment: To enhance collaboration, trust is essential. Lack of trust can stem from competition, unmet expectations, or unresolved conflicts from the past. Equally important to collaboration is alignment. Lack of alignment arises with different pressures, priorities, views of roles, and decision-making styles. Both trust and alignment can be cultivated through asking open-ended questions, putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, focusing on connecting in positive ways with people who have a history of being difficult, and quickly and directly confronting issues with those where problems tend to get out of control.

3. Respect different communication styles: We sometimes find certain people easier to work with while others can be a pain. In many cases, this comes from differences in communication styles. People write differently, speak differently, and arrive at decisions differently. Good communicators adapt, navigate, and respect these differences to make the partnering experience productive, thus enabling the ability to collaborate.

Effective cross-functional collaboration unlocks opportunities for companies and employees to do their best work. Minimizing the collaboration “Tug of War” by using influencing skills, building trust and alignment, and respecting different communication styles is an excellent way to start.

To further improve your cross-functional collaboration skills, Effective Training Associates offers a proven course to help you break down barriers that affect your ability to influence, manage push back, reach trust and alignment, and understand communication styles. For course details, learn more here. This course is also on our public calendar, hosted by Qualcomm on March 20.

“None of us is as smart as all of us” – Kenneth Blanchard

Written by: Angela Ibarra

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