R3 Collaboration: Critical Leadership Strategy To Inspire Aligned Performance

This past year has dealt companies all over the world some really tough hands. Many tough hands, even. And as the economic uncertainty has persisted, those same companies have continued to get hit again and again and again. (As of March 2021, organizations worldwide are still implementing layoffs, hiring freezes and extending furloughs into September of 2021.)

Anyone who has ever played cards knows what it feels like to get bad hand after bad hand, to watch your stack of chips get smaller and smaller. And as your resources dwindle, so do your options. And you start to panic. And panicked, you start making rash decisions. You lose sight of the big picture when all you can see is the dwindling stack of chips.

In business, our chips are more than our cashflow; they’re also our employees and colleagues – our resources. And in most cases, the pandemic has them scattered all over the city, state, country, or the world – working remotely, virtually unsupervised, potentially un-nurtured and untended to (with the underlying – or even overt in many cases – threat of layoff or furlough still looming).

Never has it been so crucial to get the most out of our resources – to make the chips we have count, to invest them in the right hands in the right ways, to make sure they’re working together, strategically and with confidence. And with the logistic complications of working remotely coupled with the emotional anxieties of isolation, never has it been more difficult.

However good we’ve been at collaboration before Covid, we need to get better. Just as our ability to communicate and partner with our clients and customers has had to rise to a new level to bridge the physical gap between us, so too does our ability to communicate and partner internally. At Acclivus, we call this S3 (sales, support, and service) Alignment.

And that requires a new level of leadership.

As a performance development organization, Acclivus has been studying the art and the science of collaboration – including the measurable effect it has on the bottom line – for over four decades. We know that however big or small your ‘stack of chips’ is, it is crucial that every resource at your disposal is working together. We know the very real cost of miscommunications, duplicate efforts, and discouraged or even resentful colleagues. And we know the very real gains when expectations are met – or even exceeded – when the entire team is partnering with the customer or client using the same language, operating from the same standards, working towards the same goal. Every member of the orchestra needs to be playing the same sonata. For most, it’s common sense, even if it isn’t always common practice.

In our ongoing research, however, what seems to be less obvious is the role that leadership plays in that alignment. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that what is less obvious is the kind of leadership that is required for “orchestral” levels of alignment. The role of the conductor, so to speak, is more than making sure each player is present and playing the right note at the right time. The real skill is inspiring within each player a desire to perform well – with a shared understanding of, alignment with, and interdependent need to achieve a shared goal.

And so, as organizations race to stay ahead of the changing environment, investing in any new performance initiative – whether it’s in sales, service, support, or aligning all three – is absolutely a worthwhile investment. But to do so without also investing in the coaching or leadership to guide and reinforce it is like investing in an orchestra without also teaching the conductor the song. Leaders who are as involved in the implementation of the new skills and approaches as the teams they are assigning them to, who understand them well enough to model and coach to them, who can empathize with difficulties, applaud successes, and celebrate the consequent gains – for the organization as well as the individual – are as critical as the teams themselves.

Performers know what happens when the audience has stopped paying attention. They may still hit the notes, but today’s business environment requires so much more than simply going through the motions. Building relationships, solving problems and achieving goals requires going beyond the obvious of “follow this model”, or “sell more of this product”. It requires creativity – and of course, collaboration – especially when you’re playing a difficult hand. The harder the piece of music is, the better the player has to be.

And the best performances don’t come from simply working more or trying harder. They are inspired. They come from a desire within to perform well. Great conductors know how to do that. Managers, coaches, and even colleagues can be taught to do that. And again, to succeed in this new, rapidly evolving business environment, they will have to.

We can’t undo the hands you’ve been dealt, but we can teach your leaders how to inspire and enable the best performances from their teams so that all of your investments – in even the smallest initiatives – are the sonatas that become symphonies.

For more information, contact us at info@acclivus.com.

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