Once you have established a firm foundation of effective communication in your family business you can focus on the second of the Three Cs—Collaboration.
Creating and fostering collaboration in a family organization goes a long way toward minimizing the dysfunction. A truly collaborative company respects our input, values ideas, and appropriately rewards contributions—things we all crave.
Collaboration means to work jointly or together. In its simplex form, collaboration is the relationship between multiple ideas that contribute to a better result or outcome for the business. Collaboration is the foundation of a high-performance approach within a family company.
Collaboration Is Not
Collaboration doesn’t mean consensus–general agreement and harmony. In fact, consensus is the antithesis of collaboration because meaningful, productive collaboration requires diversity of opinion and approach. Collaboration is based on working jointly toward common goals while respecting opposing views and engaging in respectful dialogue that values perspectives other than your own.
Capitalize on Diversity
Left to our own approach, the people we choose to collaborate with are people we know well, which can be deadly for developing new ideas. In order to leverage the power of collaboration, we must purposely seek out and welcome the divergent opinion and viewpoint.
Diversity is more than the color of someone’s skin or their ethnic background. Look around and consider the diversity that exists in your own family. Even though you may have been raised with similar values and beliefs, each family member comes with their own behaviors, motivators, experiences, capacities, and competencies. We are all gloriously unique in how we approach life and work!
Collaboration isn’t without its pitfalls. We need to be conscious of the challenges to working in a collaborative family company.
Over Doing It
There’s a reality that must be acknowledged—there can be too much collaboration! Collaboration can quickly become the brakes grinding advancement to a hard stop. When we try to collaborate on everything, we can find ourselves in endless meetings debating ideas rather than finding solutions.
It is important to focus collaborative efforts on projects that need a creative solution, rather than attempt to work on every detail of the day-to-day business. That is not to say that daily tasks won’t benefit from a team approach. Process analysis of small details can result in tremendous efficiency gains, but it’s critical that your collaboration efforts are focused on solving problems and don’t increase dysfunction or create inefficiency.
Disagreement does not Equal Disagreeable
The foundation of collaboration is discord and disagreement, but it is not okay to become disagreeable. When you become irritated or overwhelmed by negative emotion, take a mental step back and assess the situation. Is your irritation the result of something other than the current situation? Are you allowing family bias to influence your attitude?
I am often confused when otherwise bright people place self-interest ahead of a collaborative outcome. Yet many limit collaboration because it requires them to step outside of their bias; set aside their ego, and leave their emotional comfort zone.
Silos are not only collaboration killers, they can kill a company. For example, if a company’s manufacturing department finds a critical flaw in a part and no one tells sales to stop selling that part due to an organizational silo it could destroy the business.
Do Not Kill the Messenger
Trust and transparency are crucial to creating a collaborative organization. Few of us enjoy delivering bad news, and many of us won’t give bad news when we know that there is a “kill the messenger” culture in our company. Punitive behavior when someone brings bad news is the fastest way to destroy a person’s will to offer their opinions and ideas.
Make it About the We
Collaboration is about achieving results as a team. To maintain a collaborative culture we must prevent any one individual or group of collaborators from benefiting so much that others feel their inputs are being exploited.
Build a Culture of Collaboration
Building a culture of collaboration in a family company means taking the time to understand and inspire people. We must demonstrate that collaborators are vital to the organization.
The results of effective communication and a collaborative family company culture are cooperation, which is the topic of our next article.
Brent Patmos is the founder and President of Perpetual Development, Inc., an organizational performance company serving the exclusive needs of privately-held and family-owned business leaders. You can contact Brent via email: ContactPDI@perpetualdevelopment.com or by phone at 480-812-2200. You can follow Brent on twitter – @BrentPatmos and connect with him on LinkedIn.