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Teams can enjoy a significant competitive advantage over individual employees in any organization through the facilitation of trusting, open, and supportive relationships. This advantage helps to foster collaboration in the organization. Trust is the basis and most common and ôfundamental element of a winning teamö (Kouzes and Posner, 2007, p.225). Literature suggests that ôpositive relationships help produce effective teamsö (Lafasto & Larson, in Pierce & Newstrom (Eds.), 2008, p160). Successful cooperation will enable individuals in team to accomplish much more than any one person could do alone.
Fostering Collaboration: The Power of Effective Teams
In order for an organization to be effective, and moreover successful, it depends on the leader to institute an effective team strategy and at the same time foster collaboration between themselves, each team, and each individual of the teams. Hackman states, ôCommon knowledge suggests that teams outperform individualsö (Pierce & Newstrom, 2008, p.165). At the heart of this team building and collaboration are the issues of trust and truthfulness in the organization, and open and supportive actions and communication (LaFasto & Larson, in Pierce & Newstrom (Eds.), 2002).
The Power of Teams
LaFasto and Larson (2002) note that teams are very different from each individual employee because each team member must not only work on their own goals and the teams objectives, they must also be collaborative with the other members of the team. In order for a team to be most effective, it depends on a collegial atmosphere similar to the one created by Nike vice president and CFO Don W. Blair who states that he ôseeks to create the milieu that builds organizational capacity to keep us competitiveö (Knowledge@Wharton, 2005, p. 2). The effectiveness of this collegial atmosphere resounds through much of the literature. Kouzes and Posner (2007), note that one of the most important ingredients to collaboration and cooperation is a ôsense or interdependence, a condition is which everyone knows that they cannot succeed unless everyone else succeeds, or at least they canÆt succeed unless they coordinated their effortsö (p. 233). Extraordinary things can be accomplished when people rely on one another. Teams help to inspire a ôsense of mutual dependenceö (Kouzes & Posner, 2007, p.233), this is a state in which people can count on each other and each knows that they need the other to be successful.
Kouzes and Posner (2007) state, ôôYou canÆt do it aloneö is the mantra of exemplary leaders-and for good reason.
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For a leader to be successful at the facilitation of collaboration, one must ensure that everyone in the team and the organization as a whole recognizes their ôinter-dependence more than their independenceö (Kouzes and Posner, 2007, p.243). Leader must work to create and ensure a collaborative climate. This climate produces confidence, commitment, and clarity. This clarity drives confidence and the commitment is driven by confidence. (LaFasto & Larson, in Pierce & Newstrom (Eds.), 2008). Clarity of priorities gives clearer understanding of roles and actions, confidence helps team member to commit and take action, and commitment helps team members ôweather the difficult timesö (LaFasto & Larson, in Pierce & Newstrom (Eds.) 2008, p.164).
Cooperative roles and goals contribute to a collective purpose, and the best incentive for others to work to achieve your shard goals is that they know you will reciprocate the action (Kouzes and Posner, 2007). This is the basis of all collaboration, reciprocity.
Truthfulness and Trust
As Kouzes and Posner (2007) state, ôTrust is the lifeblood of collaborative teamworkö (p. 243). In order to effectively promote collaboration, a leader must first promote a climate of trust. Trust cannot exist without truthfulness. The members of the team need to know that the leader is being truthful, and this includes leader being truthful to their own goals.
Scholl (2006) wrote an article in which Warren Bennis, a world-renowned leadership guru interviewed Pete Carroll, coach of the University of Southern California football team. In the article, Bennis asks what truth means to him, Carroll responded that when he thinks of truth, he thinks of ôauthenticity, and of being truthful to my players to let them know what I feelö (p. 2). Carroll stated that he needed to maintain a consistency, an authenticity his players can count on, and a clear message. (Scholl, 2006). If a leader is truthful, and his/her constituents believe the leader to be truthful, a feeling of trust can prevail. Kouzes and Posner (2007) state, ôThe more trusted people feel, the better they innovateö (p. 225).
Trust is fundamental to establish a winning team. We tend to listen to people we trust and are more willing to accept their influence (Kouzes and Posner, 2007). In order for trust to be developed, on must ôput themselves out thereö. The leader who wants to build trust must be willing to risk being the first one to ôante upö, being the first to let go of control and show their vulnerability (Kouzes and Posner, 2007).
Knowledge@Wharton (2002), in an article titled In Search of Leadership: From æMooseÆ Issues at the New York Times to Women on Corporate Boards, highlighted the career of Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., chairman and publisher of the New York Times Co., and his experiences with trust and effective communication in a business which was previously run by fear. An organization where trust was very low on the ôtotem poleö of the executives. This article related to the terror attacks on September 11th.
Knowledge@Wharton (2002) stated:
By the time the terrorist attacks occurred in September, Sulzberger said, the company had established enough communication and trust between departments that editor Howell Raines made the decision to throw out nearly every ad in the front section of the Sept. 12 paper without even calling the business side of the organization. ôHe didnÆt have to,ö Sulzberger noted. ôWe knew what the values were and we agreed. It didnÆt have to be a conversation.ö
To finalize this point, one resounding fact about trust in the literature supports to statement made by Kouzes and Posner (2007) who stated ôTrustworthiness is in the eye of the beholder (p.244). The only way for a leader to be really trusted by their constituents is that if they group believes the leader has their best interests at heart. It means the leader shows that he/she wants the group to be happy, healthy, and to succeed, ôand because of this, people believe they can take the risks of putting themselves in a relationship with youö (Kouzes and Posner, 2007, p.244).
ôKey teamwork factors include openness, supportiveness, action orientation, and a positive personal styleö (LaFasto & Larson, in Pierce and Newstrom (Eds.), 2008, p. 160). Of these none are more important for fostering collaboration than openness. This is also intimately connected to trust and truthfulness. All must exist for a true collaborative system to exist. When a worker becomes more trusting off their group and leader, they become more willing to let others exercise specific and sometime individual influences over the decisions of the group.
Kouzes and Posner (2007) note that by ôdemonstrating openness to othersÆ influence, you contribute to building the trust that enables your constituents to be more open to your influenceö (p.229). Other important aspects of openness is that is encompasses a teamÆs and an individualÆs willingness to encourage exchange of ideas and address issues (LaFasto & Larson, in Pierce and Newstrom (Eds.), 2008). Openness is vitally important as it encourages collaboration by ensuring that team members have role clarity as, well as it fosters addressing of performance issues and clear communication and identifiable goals. In contrast, managers who create a closed, distrustful environment will often take a ôself-protective postureö and will hold tight to the reins of power, avoiding any type of effective collaboration ( Kouzes and Posner, 2007).
To build teamwork, leaders need to let the team work (Hackman, in Pierce & Newstrom (Eds.), 2008). This is the true basis of collaboration, to allow teams to work well in an organization with the assistance and collaboration of the managers and leaders. In order for this collaboration to be successful and effective there needs to be full disclosure between the groups and the leader. In addition, the groups must be truthful and able to develop a sense of trust. If all of these needs are met, a true collaborative system is possible. As noted, individuals collaborating effectively in pursuit of common goals and objectives will consistently outperform individuals acting alone (Beyerlein, et al., in Pierce & Newstrom (eds.), 2008, p.175).
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