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Renaissance Executive Forums is the one place that Madison's business leaders can convene to learn from each other and sharpen their CEO skill sets: leading their teams and their businesses to success, discussing confidential business solutions to current challenges, and exploring executive leadership on a whole new level. Invited members have access to executive business coaching and trusted peer-advice forums, all led by nationally recognized quality assurance and business process expert, Dr. Kiu Leung.


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"My Renaissance membership is unquestionably the most significant tool I have used to manage the rapid growth of Juliska’s business, which has more than tripled in the 2 ˝ years since I joined. The members of our forum have become my de-facto business advisers. We have a unique atmosphere of support,..."

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The Five Key Elements of Collaboration

It’s an often-used buzzword in business circles these days, and it’s becoming one of the required elements for a culture of success in modern businesses. It has become known a part of innovation’s “secret sauce” and the lack of it is one of the top five reasons why employees quit their jobs. It is collaboration.

In days past, competition was the value that overruled the roost. Companies pitted against each other for small percentages of market share. Employees climbing the corporate ladder in competition with their peers. The cut-throat competitive environment encouraged information hoarding and manipulation, versus open idea sharing and collective learning. “Today, business practice is more embracing of the true definition of collaboration: the conncept of working together and the value of interdependency.” In fact, it’s widely recognized that the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts, referring to the power of collaboration and the improved outcomes that it fosters.



“The team will always outperform the individual,” confirmed Dr. Kiu Leung, executive coaching and forums leader for Renaissance Executive Forums in Madison, Wisconsin. “It doesn’t matter how accomplished, smart or capable a single person is, a team will produce a better result, come to a better decision, as there are things that others will think of or see that we as individuals are blind to.” Though it’s not just about one versus many, as collaboration among teams also produces superior results.

It may not happen naturally in your business however, as our competitive survivalist drives are quite strong and many entrepreneurs built empires on doing things better, smarter, faster and at the expense of “the other guy”. When you break it down, there are five key ingredients that can be consciously focused on to help you create and sustain a collaborative environment. 

Recognizing Skills Diversity
“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” – Michael Jordan
Everyone brings different skills to the table, as there is no single person who is an expert in all things. Different perspectives yield a wider range of observations and using only one will leave critical elements out. Having a diversity of skills in the room can bring about inspiration. Like musicians or creative talents combining their different skills to build the parts of a symphony or the score for a movie. Once you recognize the value in having subject matter experts involved in decision making or idea generating, you open up an entire horizon of new possibilities. Then amass a team of different roles, and add in the willingness to let those experts shine in their own light, you have the makings of a high functioning team. That is a team that draws energy and ideas from each other, raising all boats in the harbor.

The value of a broader perspective is obvious when you look at other situations: eye witness accounts of a car accident all result in different accounts of what happened. It can even be correlated to biological science. The vision of an average human can only see 114 degrees out of the full 360. No two-eyed animal on the planet can see the full 360 degree arc. It’s a fitting analogy.

Be careful with skills diversity too, as you do want to become scattered if some voices just happen to be louder than others. That’s where the second key ingredient comes in.

Leave Egos at the Door
“Politeness is the poison of collaboration.” – Edwin Land
Collaboration requires a thicker skin than many imagine. You have to be willing to sit back and consider the opinions of others, especially if they disagree with yours. It’s long been said that if teammates agree all the time, one of them is unnecessary. Many companies still have a subtle culture of “yes men” who are uncomfortable disagreeing with the boss or stating their case in the face of adversity. True collaboration can only occur in a safe environment, where position authority is neutralized and participants know that offering contrary opinions, critical thoughts or risky ideas is consequence-free. 


Erase Individual Agendas
“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.” – Reid Hoffman
When a team is working towards a common goal, it becomes much more achievable. To continue with the teamwork analogies, it’s true that many hands make light work. But everyone has to be working in unity, pulling together, not with one lead dog and a number of followers.

Team collaboration can create a dynamic environment that can become a catalyst to action and growth in the business. Industry pundits resoundingly agree that “something incredible happens when teamwork happens the way it's supposed to happen. Things change when everyone on the team is equally invested in the overall purpose and goal. You find yourself working faster, finding mistakes more easily, and innovating better.” https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/teamwork-quotes

Open Your Mind
“One piece of log creates a small fire, adequate to warm you up, add just a few more pieces to blast an immense bonfire, large enough to warm up your entire circle of friends; needless to say that individuality counts but teamwork dynamites.” – Jin Kwon
While a small fire may be all that you need to survive, it’s not enough to grow, expand and invigorate. Collaboration adds a shared sense of ownership and momentum behind outcomes, though that can fly in the face of established hierarchies within the company. For the true power of collaboration to be realized, company leadership needs to be willing to embrace a different way of thinking, a different group dynamic, than many are used to. The culture and value set of current employees is shifting away from top-down decision making to a much more collaborative model. According to the Harvard Business Review, today’s managers and staff members spend 50 percent more time collaborating over the past two decades than they did before. Additionally, Ernst and Young found that "a work environment that doesn't encourage teamwork is one of the top five reasons why people quit their jobs". Open minded CEOs and business owners are recognizing the collaboration trend and responding, and their businesses are benefitting as a result.



“The power of collaboration is well recognized by progressive CEOs and business owners who have experienced the benefits first hand,” continued Leung. “Peer collaboration across industries has helped many CEOs innovate in ways they didn’t think of themselves, and avoid challenges that others have faced before them. Being open to learning from others, at the peer or staff level, is the first investment a collaborative business leader needs to make.”

Trust Your Teammates
“Great things in business are never done by one person; they're done by a team of people." – Steve Jobs
In order for the first four ingredients to have a chance to work, you have to have trust. Trust is involved in each of the other areas: trust in others’ expertise, trust that speaking your mind is okay, trust in the group input over a single individual…Trust is the key. Bulletproof CEOs and business owners easily find trust the most difficult ingredient to access, especially in large quantities. Building and maintaining a culture of trust involves vulnerability, and the very thought makes many top business leaders cringe. Trust is an intangible asset that is difficult to measure and requires an investment of obtain. According to General Electric’s former CEO Jack Welch, “you know it when you feel it.” That can be a daunting ambiguity to face. Where do you start if you don’t “feel it” in your business today?

In his book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey asserts that “Simply put, trust means confidence. The opposite of trust – distrust – is suspicion.” So that’s the answer to getting started. Find some small way to share and reinforce confidence in others. It doesn’t have to be a million dollar decision at the beginning, and it shouldn’t be, but fundamentally people want to be trusted and they want to be thought of as trustworthy, so the foundations are already there. Trust is a function of both character (willingness, integrity, motive…) and competence (capabilities, skills, track record of results…), and finding small opportunities for both to shine will result in rapid adoption and compounded successes.

While there are many other elements that enhance and support collaborative cultures, the five listed here are considered vital building blocks that create the foundation. Of all of these, trust is the most complex and changeable, and the short synopsis here doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Business leaders in Madison who are interested in exploring trust and the critical role it plays in business today should consider attending the upcoming CEO Learning Session: Building Trust on October 2, 2018 at the Fluno Center. 

Renaissance Executive Forums is the one place that Madison’s business leaders can convene to learn from each other and sharpen their CEO skill sets: leading their teams and their businesses to success, discussing confidential business solutions to current challenges, and exploring executive leadership on a whole new level. Invited members have access to executive business coaching and trusted peer advice forums, all led by nationally-recognized quality assurance and business process expert, Dr. Kiu Leung. For more information visit our website or call 608-826-7488.



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