What’s your recipe for progress? - Michelle Gibbings

What’s your recipe for progress?

Like many others, during our recent period of lock-down, I started baking again. Some efforts were successful, and others less so. The most challenging was trying to make sourdough bread!

My husband, Craig, and I tried lots of different recipes. Some long. Some short. Some complicated. Some easy. All with varying degrees of success.

In the end, our most successful bread arose when we used a friend’s starter as the base. We recognised to get a good outcome, we needed help.

It was a timely reminder that often in life we get better outcomes when we leverage what someone has done before us, and that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s strategic.

It’s a better use of resources to source the people who excel at something and to partner with them or learn from them. In short, to collaborate with them.

All organisations at the moment are confronting the need to rapidly respond to changing market expectations and conditions, and to consider how to best respond.

Central to being equipped to successfully do this is knowing how and when to collaborate.

Back in 2016, IBM’s Redefining Competition – The CEO perspective report highlighted that more than two-thirds of CEOs expected the traditional industry value chains to change into cross-industry eco-systems. Such eco-systems were expected to create new value by enabling organisations to achieve more than they could do alone.

Four years ago, it was all about collaboration, and that message is more relevant than ever.

When leaders genuinely collaborate, they open themselves up to different ideas. They also recognise that a better outcome will be achieved by securing input from a diverse range of stakeholders and having their ideas debated and tested.

This is important because humans are often more confident of their answers, beliefs, abilities and decisions than is warranted.

Research by the University of Southern California and London Business School (Power and overconfident decision making) found there’s a correlation between over-confidence and how much power a person has.

The researchers found that the more power a person feels, the more confident they are of the accuracy of their thoughts and beliefs. Their results indicated that power can harm performance on tasks that require careful deliberation and precision.

However, when there is genuine collaboration, as opposed to veneer collaboration, the leader is open to the fact that they don’t have all the answers. They are willing to listen to other perspectives and examine those contrasting perspectives to jointly develop a way forward.

By ensuring ideas are robustly debated, this approach can help mitigate the potential for over-confidence to negatively impact decisions. The caveat is that the people involved in the discussion need to have diversity of thought. If they all draw from a similar background, it’s less likely that diverse perspectives will materialise, and assumptions will more likely go unchallenged.

To achieve this, the leader must be willing to invest time and energy into creating a team culture where team members can challenge ideas and offer differing solutions.

This is about encouraging the team to engage in spirited conversations – rather than silent, shallow or stunted conversations that don’t advance the decision-making process. These are not aggressive conversations where one person dominates.

Spirited conversations create energy, spark new ideas, help people think more clearly about the position they hold, and open the room to different perspectives. Each person is encouraged to share their thoughts in the spirit of achieving a better and more robust decision.

Collaborative conversations and processes help teams focus, so it is not so much about winning the argument, but about finding the best way to progress positively.

Many years ago, renowned management expert, Peter Drucker, wrote: “Corporations once built to last like pyramids are now more like tents. Tomorrow they’re gone or in turmoil”.

Everything changes; all the time. Being ready for tomorrow, is about collaborating well and making progress today.

Getting you ready for tomorrow, today®

Michelle Gibbings is bringing back the happy to workplace culture. The author of three books, and a global keynote speaker, she’s on a mission to help leaders, teams and organisations create successful workplaces – where people thrive and progress is accelerated. 

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