Managing by Building Relationships: The Key to Collaboration

Today’s rich environment of social and professional networks has provided us with access to people like never before. And like most things, it presents its own challenges. Staying active and developing authentic relationships in all of the networks (physical and virtual) in which we are members is a daunting task for the most extraverted of individuals. It’s a challenge to balance the demands of work and home, not to mention identifying those fleeting moments that foster rejuvenation and enable “re-creation.”

Our networked lifestyles, where boundaries are hard to maintain–or have vanished altogether–can impact an organization’s ability to fully tap into its collaborative intelligence. Collaborative Quotient (CQ) is the diverse network of people and relationships in an organizational setting who interact to solve problems and produce intelligent outcomes. It is the ability to build, contribute to, and manage the power found in networks of people. But what can organizations and their leaders do to maximize CQ within their organizations?

First, we can make it a priority, a value-add to the organization, and consciously develop collaboration as a core component of the organization’s culture. Collaboration is fueled by various degrees and forms of social interaction and community building, as well as a commitment to the collaborative process and relationship-building vital to participatory workplace systems. We trust and collaborate more with people with whom we’ve built a relationship.

Second, look at your work processes. This begins with viewing the organization not as a machine, but as a dynamic, complex social system. This entails leaders shifting the focus from tasks to people, from getting the job done to developing high-performing work relationships. The organization’s or unit’s way of self-organizing (including its structure, culture, human resources, management approaches, forms of communication, networking processes, and politics) must be able to support collaboration in the manner that is sought by the leaders, teams, and others. Organizational and workplace “readiness” must be determined, and a development process must be added if needed.

Lastly, the organization must understand not only its own goals, but also employees’ job expectations and work demands, as well as healthy work-life amalgamation standards. No person is an island and no organization performs without considering the larger work environment and context of its employees. In order to fully reap the benefits of our collective CQ, the organization must look at itself as a holistic system–including both business and human needs.