I was listening to a web-conference today, one of the speakers discussed the importance of collaboration in sales, citing the higher use of web conferencing, webinars, Webex, and other tools. While I have great respect for the speaker, I wanted to scream! Absolutely, collaboration is critical to sales, and business, professionals. It’s always been important, new forms of collaboration are increasingly important. But web conferencing , webinars, Webex are not collaboration — they have little to do with collaboration!
Effective collaboration is about alignment of goals and objectives. It’s about working together, perhaps in different ways than we have in the past. To collaborate effectively, we have to look at how we realign our work processes, how we share risk, resources, rewards. Effective collaboration requires shared values and vision. Collaboration changes the way we look at control and independence. Collaborating means that we have to surrender some levels of control and increase our dependence on those people we are collaborating with. At its core, it requires much higher levels of trust.
Collaboration can profoundly change our relationships—within our own organizations, with our customers, suppliers, and stakeholders. It can deepen and enrich our relationships, enabling each of us to achieve our goals, execute our strategies, grow and innovate more effectively and efficiently.
Having said all this, collaboration is not the be all, end all. There are many cases where collaboration is inappropriate or ineffective. If we cannot align our goals and objectives, our “our collaboration” is not likely to be effective, it’s more likely to increase conflict than produce results. If the organization/function we are collaborating with does not bring critical capabilities that complement ours, then we are possibly wasting money and resources.
Collaboration is one of those words that is fashionable to toss around–it’s the politically correct thing to do. Vendors can sell a lot of hardware, software, systems that enable us to communicate—not necessarily collaborate. Social media tools provide us platforms that can facilitate communication and collaboration. Using these tools does not mean we are collaborating. Collaboration is important, but let’s not confuse the tools with what it really is, what we must do to be effective in collaboration, when it is appropriate to collaborate, and how we produce results through effective collaboration.