Management Articles


Collaboration ... Personal Power, not Position Power

By: G.A. (Andy) Marken

In his nearly 25 years in the advertising/public relations field, Andy has been involved with a broad range of corporate and marketing activities. Prior to forming Marken Communications in mid-1977, Andy was vice president of Bozell & Jacobs and its predecessor agencies. During his 12 years with these agencies, he developed and coordinated a wide variety of highly visible and successful promotional campaigns and activities for clients. A graduate of Iowa State University, Andy received his Bachelor's Degree with majors in Radio & Television and Journalism. Widely published in the industry and trade press, he is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

In today's virtual organizations people increasingly work in teams made up of people from different departments and in many instances with people who are outside their companies. The challenge is to gain the cooperation of individuals you have no control over.

To effectively lead these collaborative teams you mush rely on personal persuasion rather than the power of your position. Whether you're heading an interdepartmental team; leading a combined customer, company and supplier project; or building support for new ideas or programs the ability to persuade others is extremely important.

To guarantee the success of your virtual team project, follow the advice of experts:

  • Ensure management support Whether it is a virtual team or a skunk works project one of the most vital pieces of information you'll want to learn is who requested that the team be brought together and what are their objects. Did the call to action come from the CEO or the management committee? What are their expressed and implied objectives? Make certain there is a firm commitment to the project and program so when the team is done with the project actions and recommendations will be carried out. If there is no commitment to the project then management loses its credibility.
  • Opportunity, not Punishment If you're recruiting people for the project team, sell the individual on the importance of the activity and their part in producing results. It is often said that if you want something important to be done and done properly seek out the busiest individuals because they know how to make things happen. These are the people you want on your team.
  • Short-Circuit Problems If you've been named to head up the project team there may be some resentment from your peers. In some instances they may feel the “honor” or responsibility should have been theirs or they don't feel you're qualified for the responsibility. At the outset empower your team members. Let them know you're the facilitator for the project, not the leader.
  • Agree on Goals Make certain everyone is on the same page and working toward the same objective at the outset. At your first meeting agree upon a common objective or set of objectives and on the time frame for completing the project. This keeps everyone moving in the same direction and at the same pace. Next get a commitment from management to the objectives and the execution of the outcome. Your team and senior management must agree that not succeeding isn't an option.
  • Involve the Team Members Make certain every member of the team feels his or her role and inputs are important. Ask for their inputs and ideas. Then as a team consider the inputs seriously rather than dismissing or ignoring them. By closely involving each of the members, he or she has a stake in making certain that the project or program succeeds. If they aren't involved in the process, they aren't responsible for the outcome. Once the project is completed now comes the important phase of meeting with and assisting those who must implement the project. Their involvement comes at the outset by getting inputs and suggestions and then communicating to get their assistance/cooperation in making the changes happen.
  • Observe One of the most difficult tasks for any leader is to step back and observe your team members and analyze their motives or actions. The most valuable asset a leader of any kind can have is the ability to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your key people and leverage their talents and interests so they deliver results for the program and themselves. It's a struggle for any manager to control himself or herself from assisting. But good people don't like to, don't need to, be micro managed. In addition, unless the individual(s) are heading for total disaster most people only effectively learn by making mistakes and recovering from them.
  • Ask for Time Since you don't directly control the project managers, your project can have a low priority as compared to work the people they report to. Sometimes it's important to get time freed up for your project members. This means going to their supervisors and explaining what the team is doing, why they are dong it and how it fits into the overall picture for the company. This helps managers understand the bigger picture.
  • Address Problem Team Members Head-on Your virtual project or program is only an interim assignment for the team members. It's not mainstream to their job. In some instances people won't attend meetings, won't complete assignments and aren't really committed to the team's success. Sometimes there are personality or personal reasons. In other instances even the best people have reached their overload level and the time schedule/priority windows are closed. Down with the individual (alone, not during the meeting) and see how things can be resolved so the project can be completed and everyone's needs are met. At times, it may mean realigning the workload so someone else can pick up the ball and keep the program moving forward. All of the people in the project team were selected for specific reasons experience, talent, drive but not everyone has an equal overall workload. By negotiating with all of the team members, workable solutions can be developed.
  • Managing your Managers Everyone in busienss today understands that downsizing and mergers have slimmed the ranks of middle management and employees have become more empowered to manage themselves and their time out of necessity. That doesn't mean that some of these people are able to deal well with their loss of power or this new cross-organization freedom. Employees who take the initiative threaten old-line mangers. Many feel they worked hard to get where they are today and that they've earned the right to be in charge. Some rustbelt managers feel the flattened and empowered organization is the same as letting the inmates run the jail. If the insecurity isn't deeply rooted you can help them by keeping them appraised on the project, its objectives, its direction and its progress. When the project is completed, make it a point to thank the managers for helping project members by making them available and freeing them up so they could accomplish their objectives. It's a minor point but it can return some of their managerial dignity.
  • Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk It isn't enough to give lip service to change. As the project leader you have to be one of the first to step forward and demonstrate that you are committed to producing results and achieving the team's objectives. You also have a responsibility to help the organization plan out, monitor and revise the team's program as necessary. Ultimately, success is based on follow-through, follow-through, and follow-through.

© Copyright 2000, G.A.Marken, Marken Communications

Other Articles by G.A. (Andy) Marken

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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