Project Oxygen: How to be cross-collaborative in your organization

You can’t be successful by building silos; everyone needs to have shared values and a shared vision for success because we need each other to be successful. – Harvard Business Review 

The ninth quality of a successful leader, as defined by Google’s Project Oxygen, is the willingness and ability to collaborate across the organization.  As the quote above illustrates, Google believes that isolating ourselves or our teams from other members of our organization will never lead to success. After all, we are interdependent: my success depends on your success, and this is true for every member of our team and our company.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you work toward becoming cross-collaborative in your organization:

  1. We all have diverse communication styles and preferences.

Though much has been said about diversity in terms of racial makeup, ethnicity, gender expression, religion or national origin, little attention has been focused on diversity of communication styles. At Institute Success, we know that everyone wants to be spoken to in a the way they prefer. When this doesn’t happen, especially in the workplace, it can lead to problems that often go unresolved unresolved.

In order to fruitfully collaborate across our organization, we must first acknowledge that we might be called upon to work with someone whose approach to their job is quite different from ours. If we are the vice president of sales, we might be surprised when the accounting manager doesn’t seem to “hear” our request to process expenses. Likewise, if we’re a technical supervisor, we might not realize that the gregarious marketing manager who calls out of the blue to explain his latest idea is not trying to distract us but to get our valued opinion.

The good news is, we can work on this. As leaders, it is imperative for us to do so. Consider the Golden Rule we learned as children: treat others the way you want to be treated. But when it comes to truly communicating with others, this mantra doesn’t always work. We at Institute Success prefer instead to teach Golden Questions: 

-Who is this person?

-And what do I need to do to communicate successfully with them? 

I may need to go outside of what is natural for me in order to effectively communicate with some of my employees. And that’s okay – we all have natural and adaptive styles of communication. Most of the time – studies show about 70% to 85% of the time – we use our natural style. But that still leaves up to 30% of our time for communicating in our adaptive style. 

Whenever we are preparing to meet with someone, especially someone new, we need to think about the best way to reach them. At Institute Success, we can help you do that. Because every person in our organization has value and makes an impact on our lives. They deserve our intentional focus so that we all can be more productive.

  1. People do things for people they know, like and trust. Be that person!

    The number one rule of relating to someone is that you have to create trust. Without trust, employees in another department or a location across the country  will be less open to share information with you. They’ll hold it tight so they can possess the knowledge that they’ve worked hard to collect. Why should they share it with you if they don’t trust you? 

As leaders, we need to get our employees out of this space of scarcity and into a place of abundance. We need to move them from “I” to “we.”

How do you build trust or encourage your employees to do so? Conversation and relationships. Take the time to stop by an employee’s or coworker’s desk and ask them about their projects, their children, the photo next to their computer. If you are a leader who is cross collaborating, start by finding out how your counterparts like to work. What makes them tick?  This isn’t being disingenuous; it’s adapting to your company’s most valuable asset – employees – so you can move forward together. 

We like to tell our clients that when you put your attention around your intention, you get a good result.  We advise them to have a “meeting before the meeting” with themselves before they engage with someone and ask themselves the Golden Questions.  

  1. Remember the value of the team.

    What does success look like? When it comes to an organization, whether large or small, success is a team effort. I might be a superior performer, but I can’t get to fully realized success by myself. When we come from a place of abundance, recognizing that what you do is as valuable as what I do, we can move forward together. 

Remember the “why” of your organization. What is your company’s mission? Why are you doing what you do? 

The bestselling author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek, who wrote “Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action,” reminds us that the most successful companies understand that clients don’t buy what you are selling. They buy why you are selling it. And the same goes for your internal clients, your staff. They will be much more devoted to your pursuit of cross-collaboration if you can remind them how it ties into your overall mission.  

Institute Success Tip: Take a page from Google’s playbook for creating a collaborative workplace:  

1) Embrace differences

2) Encourage “casual collisions” of employees and their ideas

3) Promote employee engagement

4) Keep the door open and be approachable to your staff