Collaboration Starts with CEO

Last Updated Aug 20, 2007 6:19 PM EDT

When London School of Business professor Lynda Gratton spoke at the Society for Human Resources Management conference in Las Vegas this week about her book Hot Spots: Why Some Teams, Organizations, and Workplaces Buzz with Energy -- and Others Don't, she put the responsibility for creating a collaborative environment squarely on the executive team:
"The No. 1 thing predicting team cooperation is that the senior-management team is seen to cooperate with each other," she said. "If you're the CEO and you want your company to be cooperative, it starts with you."
In her book, Gratton lists a cooperative mindset as one of the four necessary elements to fostering a hot spot in your company:
Emergence of a cooperative mindset depends on leaders' attitudes toward cooperation and competition and their capacity and willingness to craft within the organization a sense of mutuality and collegiality. This first element sets the stage for the emergence of Hot Spots and ensures that the Big Freeze does not take over. However [...] the energy of the cooperative mindset has to be channeled across boundaries for the innovative capacity of a Hot Spot to emerge.
According to Gratton, employees at cooperative companies have developed the habits of cooperating. These habits can be more difficult to form than the more common competitive habits, but she recommnends these six practices:
  1. Relational Selection: Screen new applicants for cooperative qualities.
  2. Relational Induction: Emphasize the importance of cooperation during a new hire's first few weeks.
  3. Mentoring: Active mentoring is perhaps the most obvious way executives can show that they are serious about collaboration.
  4. Collective Rewards: In and of themselves, team-based awards don't foster collaboration, but they do help to balance the effects of individualized, competitive awards.
  5. Peer-to-Peer Working: Organizational structures that emphasize peer-to-peer working help employees understand that they will flourish by working collaboratively with others.
  6. Social Resposibility: Community involvement helps employees realize the importance of being part of something bigger than themselves.