Question: What does successful collaboration look like and how can that environment be cultivated in teams?
Mark Richardson: Well, if I think back to my days as an elite performer, so a world class athlete, competing in the 4x400 meter relay, actually the climate that we created at times had this edge. It had this spark. It had this tension, because we were so demanding of each other. We had this fixation, this relentless pursuit of excellence and high performance. And so, at times, there were real high levels of assertiveness, but we also presented with high levels of cooperativeness, as well, because we were really trying to support and challenge each other to get the very best from ourselves and from the team.
So, how can a leader kind of foster that type of climate within their own teams? Well, there's something about the trust. It needs to be built on a foundation of trust. How do you get this sense of trust coursing through a team, so that actually, they absolutely trust the intent of challenge, of demand, of that relentless pursuit of excellence? That they embrace it. They thrive in it. They really, really see it as a tool to get to a better outcome, not just for the team but for the organization and for the customers that they serve. And to get to that place, there's something that a leader needs to do that's absolutely pivotal: They need to create this sense of common purpose, a sense of connection, a sense of affinity. ‘What is the mutual goal that we're aspiring towards?’ And if you can get that locked down, then collaboration is inevitable.
Question: Why is it important for companies to focus on fostering collaboration today?
Mark Richardson: Well, it feels like there's a number of converging forces that's making it so much more difficult to get the best out of our people. Change is ever-present. In fact, it's accelerating. Unprecedented is now our new norm. If we think about the socio-economic factors that are at play as well and we think about the trauma that we all experience: Going through a pandemic and how people have re-adjusted what they want from life and what they want in terms of meaning and connection to work, and actually the way they want to work- how and when- all of this means that it's become much more difficult to get the optimum value.
So, what can collaboration bring us? If you get the alchemy right, then actually collaboration creates spark. It creates engagement. It creates fulfillment. It creates an affinity to the work that you're doing. And of course, all of that is going to lead to a greater level of performance. And actually, the research backs this up as well. So, we've done work with the World's Most Admired Companies, and of the executives who are polled within that research, 30% have named collaboration as the key cultural attribute to go after.