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From his pinnacle of power atop a vast organization of supporting employees, former New York City mayor Ed Koch was prone to ask, "How'm I doin'?" As an HR professional or HR manager, you've probably experienced that same desire to know where things stand, whether you head a department, lead an initiative, manage a team or support business teams where synergistic collaboration (as opposed to merely complying with direct orders) is essential to success.
However, in "soft skills" contexts—as in HR and professional development—it's often not possible to answer this question about your progress using objective, measurable performance metrics. So if you can't directly measure collaboration, how do you know if a team is firing on all cylinders or, alternatively, if it's falling short of the mark? What are the symptoms of collaborative success—or shortfalls?
In an earlier article, Getting a GRIP on Collaboration, I suggested that effective team collaboration requires four principal components:
--Processes and Procedures Quality.
When all four components are present, your team can hum along quietly like a well-oiled machine. Perhaps so quietly that you neither hear nor appreciate its apparently effortless performance. If so, it's time to wake up and smell the coffee—deliberately and diligently.
Leaders often are so alert for problems that they may be inattentive to symptoms of success. So let's do the happy dance: Here's how you'll know when collaboration is working.
When You Have Good Goal Clarity
When You Have Good Role Clarity
When You Have Good Interactions
When You Have Good Processes and Procedures
Okay, so maybe your team did not score 100 percent on all these positive dimensions of collaboration. Few do. But at least now, like a good doctor, you can perform a thorough diagnosis. This is a bona fide occupational qualification for an HR professional.
If your team did score off the charts on all counts, no doubt other leaders are asking for your magic recipe for collaboration and success. Before you gloat, however, consider this: If your team is manifesting symptoms of collaborative health, you must know why.
We've all heard of positive, vibrant performance cultures that went south when not diligently tended and reinforced. Positive cultures tend to be fun but fragile; negative cultures, because they're rooted in survival and not peak experience, tend to be tough and resilient. Cultures in transition or crisis tend to be noisy and needy.
As Google's famed Project Aristotle research demonstrated, culture and collaboration are closely linked in successful teams and organizations. If team performance is important to you, now is the time to do the necessary diagnosis.
Douglas Richardson, J.D., M.A., is a principal of Legal Leadership LLC of Philadelphia and Savannah, Ga., and a certified master coach. As a lawyer and consultant, he has been voicing opinions about leadership, communication and organizational effectiveness for over 40 years.
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