Confluence

In this issue … we look our latest research on improving collaboration at work.

About a year ago, I took a couple-thousand mile road trip to the Northwest, which included a short stopover at my old home town. I was looking forward to visiting with friends, as well as taking my first-ever bike ride around the Apple Capital Loop Trail. This 10-mile bikeway, built long after I moved away, circles the downtown as it travels along the eastern and western riverfront shores of the Columbia River.

At one point, the trail brings you by a literal fork in the river, or more accurately … the confluence of two individual rivers – where the mighty Columbia and the Wenatchee River meet. Confluence State Park marks the spot where the joining takes place.

“Confluence.” I don’t run into that word very often. But it seems to explain an important leadership concept …

“Bringing together. Unifying. Becoming one. Merging. And maybe the best business description of all – collaborating.”

That’s what we’re trying to make happen, isn’t it? It makes me think of so many times, and so many workplaces, where people have truly struggled to get on the same page and work well together. It’s not an easy task. But you know it’s necessary.

In Order to Have Influence, Leaders Need Confluence

I’ve just finished Confluence 2020, my newest leadership study which pulls together information from 535 surveys collected over a 3-year period, and explores the nature of effective collaboration.

The most productive leaders successfully enable work to flow at its highest rate. They understand the objective is creating a collaborative “we-all-work-together” workplace, which is significantly influenced by the way they interact with others, and the way they personally think and behave. Leaders impact how this environment develops, or is stifled. They play a role in how quickly it happens, and how strong the connections are formed. They affect who participates, and how committed they are to one another.

What helps success?

Leaders succeed when they ask questions, listen, respect and value people’s ideas and opinions. And when they organize it – continually setting-up, emphasizing, and nurturing a team culture – which encourages and invites participation and fosters open communication and discussion among members. They promote healthy interaction, and they set an example by actually doing it themselves.

Even where leaders don’t consider their workforce as teams per se, maybe more like a working group or individual contributors, they still know when they widen the channels of cooperation between people, they open up the speed in which members share, grow, help, and develop one another to a positive result.

Wider channels offer a more impressive output – just as it does in nature.

So, effective leaders continually ask themselves, “Have disagreements, or overwork, or cliques, or personality conflicts, or misunderstandings, or tele-working, or something else caused our togetherness to narrow, or plug up? What can I do now to clear things away and improve the flow?” Spending some time thinking about this, and putting together a plan to address it, is a worthwhile exercise.

Bringing the work and workers together must be the goal of every leader. And, it makes it better ride.

– Jerry Strom

For more information about our leadership and team development programs, please visit http://www.JerryStrom.com . Join the mailing list to receive new articles as they are published. This article is based on leadership research by Jerry Strom & Company, Inc. Find short insights on Twitter @JerryRStrom.

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