Silos. Turf wars. Unhealthy competition. They’re present at some level in nearly every organization, regardless of their size. And they drive us crazy! They slow progress, prevent teamwork, and build distrust between leaders and teams, yet most of us have come to accept dealing with these roadblocks and frustrations as an unpleasant but necessary part of the job.
In reality, just because silos and turf wars exist doesn’t mean we can’t work to break down those barriers and begin working with, rather than against, other departments throughout our organizations. Here are four actions I’ve found that can help foster collaboration between teams and departments.
1. Be willing to trust. In fact, be willing to trust first. Trust is built over time, yes, but initially one party must be willing to take the risk and trust the other leader or team in good faith. If trust is never present, a silent, underlying agenda exists for individuals and teams to protect and preserve themselves first, over and above what’s best for the organization.
Best practices for building trust across teams, departments, and organizations include:
- Be yourself. Authenticity puts people at ease. Fake personas put people on guard.
- Don’t twist anything. The truth is always best, and it will always come out.
- Know your boundaries and values, and don’t cross those lines. When you stick to what you believe in, others will come to know you are a person who keeps his word.
- Pace yourself. Do what’s right at a cadence that others won’t find intimidating.
- Influence, don’t force. Influence takes time and will grow as trust is built.
- Don’t rush to make a difference. As a person of faith, I believe in waiting on God to make things safe for me to act.
- Be relational. Let people see your authentic desire to serve the company, not your own self-interests.
2. Protect your first team first. Your first team is your team of peers, not your team that you lead or the people who report to you. When you feel like your team is the team that reports to you, a silo automatically forms. This is because your interests lie in serving the best interests of your own team first, rather than the interests of the organization.
Here are a few tips for getting your first-team philosophy going:
- Share this concept with key peer influencers and brainstorm on how it will benefit the company.
- Meet monthly with your first-team peers to share projects and initiatives going on in each department/branch.
- Communicate and share information. Be open about how another department can help your initiatives and look for ways you can help their initiatives.
- Celebrate wins and challenges together. The first team owns overall company growth good or bad.
3. Share information. Closed communication and hoarding information are two of the quickest ways to build those barriers. Information isn’t power! Influence is power. Increase your influence by sharing the information others need to do the best job possible.
One simple way to do this is to ensure you always include the necessary colleagues across the organization when beginning a project by asking the following:
- Who else needs to be involved in this project? When answering this question, focus on the strengths and the areas of expertise you need around the table.
- What other departments and teams need to be brought on board and when?
- How and when are we going to inform the rest of the organization?
By intentionally sharing information, you’ll continue to build trust with colleagues and make decisions that are best for the entire organization.
4. Get everyone going in the same direction. Every department has its own goals and projects, but all those goals and projects should be pointing to the one thing everyone in the organization is working to accomplish. Make sure everyone in your organization knows your vision, and make the vision something the team owns, rather than something you champion alone. Do this by eliminating words like “my vision” and replace them with “our vision.” When a vision is in the “my” stage it demotivates the team, and using “my” or “I” never gets anything off the ground. Use the vision as a basis to build momentum and collaboration within your organization.
Linda Sasser is the CEO of Impacting Leaders, a firm focused on helping companies with their leadership development and organizational effectiveness needs. Linda has over 25 years’ experience in developing businesses, leading teams, and directing sales programs, which include stewarding the John Maxwell corporate leadership development brand; leading efforts to achieve $2 billion in sales while serving as the vice president of sales and marketing at Express Employment Professionals; and owning and operating five Express Employment Professionals staffing franchises. Connect with Linda and Impacting Leaders on their website at www.impactingleaders.com, on Lindaâs leadership blog at www.leadershipwithsass.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/ILHappyHour or on Twitter at twitter.com/impactingleadrs.