Herminia Ibarra (herminia. Morten T. Hansenibarra@insead.edu) is a (firstname.lastname@example.org of organizational edu) is a management pro-behavior and the Cora fessor at the University ofChaired Professor of Leader- California, Berkeley, Schoolship and Learning at Insead. of Information, and atShe is the author of Working Insead. He is the author ofIdentity: Unconventional Collaboration: How LeadersStrategies for Reinventing Avoid the Traps, CreateYour Career (Harvard Busi- Unity, and Reap Big Resultsness Review Press, 2003). (Harvard Business Review Press, 2009). Are You aW Collaborative Leader? How great CEOs keep their teams connected by Herminia Ibarra and Morten T. Hansen Watching his employees use a new so- he realized that many of the people who cial technology, Marc Benioff, the CEO of had critical customer knowledge and Salesforce.com, had an epiphany. His com- were adding the most value were not even pany had developed Chatter, a Facebook- known to the management team. inspired application for companies that al- The view into top management from lows users to keep track of their colleagues the rank and file was just as obscure, and customers and share information and Benioff knew. For instance, the com- ideas. The employees had been trying it pany’s annual management off-site was out internally, not just within their own coming up, and he could tell from talking work groups but across the entire organi- to employees that they wondered about zation. As Benioff read the Chatter posts, what went on behind closed doors at that July–August 2011 Harvard Business Review 3
Spotlight on collaborationgathering. “They imagined we were dressing up in Those who climbed the corporate ladder in silosrobes and chanting,” he says. while using a “command and control” style can have What could he do to bring the top tier of the com- a difficult time adjusting to the new realities. Con-pany closer to the workforce? Benioff asked himself. versely, managers who try to lead by consensus canAnd then it hit him: Let’s use Chatter to blow open quickly see decision making and execution grind to athe doors of the management off-site. halt. Crafting the right leadership style isn’t easy. What greeted the 200 executives who attended As part of our research on top-performing CEOsthat meeting was atypical. All 5,000 Sales orce.com f (see “The Best-Performing CEOs in the World,” HBRemployees had been invited to join them—virtually. January–February 2010), we’ve examined what itHuge TV monitors placed throughout the meeting means to be a collaborative leader. We’ve discoveredroom displayed the special Chatter forum set up for that it requires strong skills in four areas: playing thethe off-site. Every manager received an iPod Touch, role of connector, attracting diverse talent, modeling Taking Yourand every table had an iPad, which attendees could Collaborative collaboration at the top, and showing a strong handuse to post to the forum. A video service broadcast Pulse to keep teams from getting mired in debate. Thethe meeting in real time to all employees, who could good news is, our research also suggests that thesebeam in and instantaneously express their views on skills can be learned—and can help executives gen-Chatter, too. erate exceptional long-term performance. The meeting began with the standard presenta-tions. The managers watching them weren’t quite Play Global Play Global Connectorsure what to do. Nothing unusual happened at first. Connector In his best-selling book The Tipping Point, MalcolmFinally, Benioff grabbed the iPad on his table and Do you attend confer- Gladwell used the term “connector” to describe indi- ences outside yourmade a comment on Chatter, noting what he found professional specialty? viduals who have many ties to different social worlds.interesting about what was being said and adding a It’s not the number of people they know that makes Are you part of a globaljoke to spice it up. Some in the room followed with network like Young connectors significant, however; it’s their ability toa few comments, and then employees watching Presidents’ Organization? link people, ideas, and resources that wouldn’t nor-from their offices launched a few comments back. Do you regularly blog or mally bump into one another. In business, connec-The snowball started rolling. “Suddenly, the meeting e-mail employees about tors are critical facilitators of collaboration.went from a select group participating to the entire trends, ideas, and people For David Kenny, the president of Akamai Tech- you encounter outsidecompany participating,” Benioff says. your organization? nologies, being a connector is one of the most impor- Comments flew. “We felt the empowerment in tant ways he adds value. He spends much of his time How often do you meetthe room,” recalls Steve Gillmor, the head of techni- with parties outside your traveling around the world to meet with employees,cal media strategy. company (competitors, partners, and customers. “I spend time with media In the end the dialogue lasted for weeks beyond consumers, govern- owners to hear what they think about digital plat- ment officials, universitythe actual meeting. More important, by fostering a contacts, and so on) who forms, Facebook, and new pricing models, and withdiscussion across the entire organization, Benioff are not directly relevant Microsoft leaders to get their views on cloud com-has been able to better align the whole workforce to your immediate job puting,” he says. “I’m interested in hearing how our demands or currentaround its mission. The event served as a catalyst for operations? clients feel about macroeconomic issues, the G20,the creation of a more open and empowered culture and how debt will affect future generations.” These Are you on theat the company. board of any outside conversations lead to new strategic insights and rela- Like Salesforce.com’s managers and employees, organizations? tionships, and help Akamai develop critical externalbusinesspeople today are working more collabora- partnerships.tively than ever before, not just inside companies but Connecting the world outside to people insidealso with suppliers, customers, governments, and the company is crucial to Kenny. He uses a numberuniversities. Global virtual teams are the norm, not of tactics to do this. “First, I check in on Foursquarethe exception. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, video- often and post my location to Facebook and Twitter,”conferencing, and a host of other technologies have he says. “It lets employees in different Akamai loca-put connectivity on steroids and enabled new forms tions know I’m in town so that anybody at any levelof collaboration that would have been impossible a can bring me suggestions or concerns. Second, ev-short while ago. ery time I go to one of our locations, I have lunch or Many executives realize that they need a new coffee with 20 to 40 people. We go around the room,playbook for this hyperconnected environment. and people ask questions on topics they most want4 Harvard Business Review July–August 2011
Idea in Brief RATHER THANA hyperconnected business world, Make global connections that Focus on internalspurred on by social media and global- help them spot opportunities connectionsization, demands a leadership style thatcan harness the power of connections. Engage diverse talent from Rely on homogeneous everywhere to produce results teams for new ideasLeaders need to shed the command-and-control and consensus styles in Collaborate at the top to Serve corporate politicsfavor of collaborative leadership. Our re- model expectations and parochial agendassearch shows that collaborative leaderswho get results do four things well: Show a strong hand to speed Let groups get mired in decisions and ensure agility conflict or attempts at consensusto address. Often my answer is to connect them with sure innovation and that more training in creativityothers in Akamai or even people at other companies is needed.who have expertise on the topic. Third, if I see a big “I work hard to curate information that I don’t be-opportunity when meeting with a customer or col- lieve many at GE will have heard and to translate in-league, I will schedule a follow-up visit and bring formation in a way that is relevant to our challenges,”along the right experts from Akamai. Fourth, when- says Comstock. “I probably spend half of my timeever I travel, I try to make room to meet with two to immersed in worlds beyond GE. I hope this encour- Taking Your Collaborativethree people I know in that location. Whenever pos- ages my colleagues to be more externally focused. Pulsesible, I bring someone else from Akamai with me to The message is ‘If I find it important to spend somethose meetings.” of my time this way, maybe you will, too.’” Kenny’s networking recently resulted in an im- To connect their organizations to the wider world,portant strategic alliance with Ericsson. Akamai is collaborative leaders develop contacts not only innow working with the mobile giant to change con- the typical areas—local clubs, industry associations,sumers’ internet experiences on mobile devices. The and customer and supplier relations—but beyond Engage Talent at the Peripherypartnership evolved out of a conversation Kenny them. Networking in adjacent industries, innovation How diverse is your im-had with a midlevel Ericsson executive two years hot spots like Silicon Valley, or emerging economies mediate team in terms ofago at the Monaco Media Forum. “It really changed or with people of different educational or ethnic nationality? Gender? Age?my idea of what Ericsson could be, and I saw that backgrounds helps open their eyes to new business How much time do youwe were both trying to solve a similar technical opportunities and partners. For example, Com- spend outside your home country?problem,” Kenny says. “Then I worked through mu- stock’s external contacts in the innovation space ledtual friends to meet their CEO and arranged for the GE to NASA, with which the corporation has shared Have you visited your emerging markets thisright people on his team to meet with their Akamai insights and best practices. The two organizations year?counterparts.” have also begun discussions about space technolo- Does your network Presidents and CEOs aren’t the only executives gies that might have applications in health care. include people in theirbuilding bridges between their organizations and twenties (who aren’tthe outside world nowadays. Take Beth Comstock, Engage Talent at the Periphery your kids)?the chief marketing officer of General Electric. She Research has consistently shown that diverse teamsis famous for her weekly “BlackBerry Beth” blog, in produce better results, provided they are well led.which she shares what she has learned in her exter- The ability to bring together people from differentnal role for busy (and perhaps more internally fo- backgrounds, disciplines, cultures, and generationscused) GE managers. The pithy and provocative blog and leverage all they have to offer, therefore, is agoes out to thousands of GE’s sales, marketing, and must-have for leaders. Yet many companies spendtechnology leaders. In it, Comstock passes along in- inordinate amounts of time, money, and energy at-teresting information that people might have missed, tracting talented employees only to subject them totaking care to tie it back to challenges and opportuni- homogenizing processes that kill creativity. In a lotties GE faces. For example, in a recent post from the of multinational companies, for example, nonnativeWorld Economic Forum, she reported that a panel English speakers are at a disadvantage. To seniorof scientists had come to the same conclusion that management, they don’t sound as “leader-like” asa GE survey had—that technology alone cannot en- the Anglophones, and they end up getting passed July–August 2011 Harvard Business Review 5
Spotlight on collaborationover for promotions. At a time when innovations are industries shows that the collaborations that areincreasingly originating in emerging markets, com- most successful (whether in terms of patent citation, Taking Yourpanies that allow this to happen lose out. Collaborative critical acclaim, or financial return) include both France’s Danone, one of the top performers in our Pulse experienced people and newcomers and bring to-research, makes sure its executives don’t encounter gether people who haven’t worked with one anothersuch obstacles. When all the managers worldwide before. Leaders need to make a concerted effort toget together for the company’s annual strategic re- promote this mix: Left to their own devices, peopleview, many choose to present in their native tongue. will choose to collaborate with others they knowSays CEO Franck Riboud: “We spend a fortune on Collaborate well or who have similar backgrounds. Static groupsinterpreters so that being less articulate in English is at the Top First breed insularity, which can be deadly for innova-not a barrier. Some of our executives have even pre- Do members of your team tion. Nokia’s former executive team, for example, have any joint respon-sented their business case in native dress. This helps sibilities beyond their was 100% Finnish and had worked closely togetherus steal away talent from competitors where those individual goals? for more than a decade. Many believe homogeneitywho don’t speak perfect English get stuck.” Does the compensation explains why the team failed to see the smartphone Reckitt Benckiser, the UK-based producer of of your direct reports threat emerging from Silicon Valley.home, health, and personal care products and an- depend on any collective Collaborative leaders ensure that teams stay goals or reflect any collec-other top performer in our research, considers the tive responsibilities? fresh via periodic infusions of new players. Includ-diversity of its workforce to be one of its competi- ing employees from Generation Y—those born from What specifically havetive advantages—and a key reason it has seen net you done to eradicate the mid-1970s to the early 2000s, who have grownincome grow 17% annually, on average, from 1999 power struggles within up sharing knowledge and opinions online—isto 2010. No nationality dominates the company’s your team? another obvious way to enliven collaborations. Asenior team. Two executives are Dutch, one is Ger- Do your direct reports number of leading companies have begun usingman, two are British, one is South African, two are have both performance technology to harness Gen Y ideas and perspectives. and learning goals?Italian, and one is from India. According to (soon-to- Salesforce.com, as we have seen, brought themretire) CEO Bart Becht: “It doesn’t matter whether in from the periphery by using Chatter to open itsI have a Pakistani, a Chinese person, a Brit, or a management off-site to all staff. At India’s HCL, em-Turk, man or woman, sitting in the same room, or ployees throughout the company join virtual con-whether I have people from sales or something else, versations on topics that are important to them, andso long as I have people with different experiences— CEO Vineet Nayar reaches out personally through abecause the chance for new ideas is much greater popular blog that allows him to interact with a broadwhen you have people with different backgrounds. cross section of employees. In a market where theThe chance for conflict is also higher—and conflict competition for engineering talent is fierce, the abil-is good per se, as long as it’s constructive and gets ity to attract the best and brightest helped HCL growus to the best idea.” 30% annually from 2008 to 2010. As Becht suggests, nationality isn’t the onlykind of diversity that matters. Research on creative Collaborate at the Top First It’s not enough for leaders to spot collaborative op-Left to their own devices, portunities and attract the best talent to them. They must also set the tone by being good collaborators themselves. All too often, efforts to collaborate inpeople will choose to the middle are sabotaged by political games and turf battles higher up in the organization. Consider thatcollaborate with others they Microsoft, according to a former company executive writing in the New York Times last year, developedknow well—which can be a viable tablet computer more than a decade ago but failed to preempt Apple’s smash hit becausedeadly for innovation. competing Microsoft divisions conspired to kill the project. Part of the problem is that many leadership teams, composed of the CEO and his or her direct reports, actually don’t operate as teams. Each member runs6 Harvard Business Review July–August 2011
Collaboration Does Not Equal Consensus Collaborative leadership is the capacity to engage people and groups outside one’s formal control and inspire them to work toward common goals—despite differences in convictions, cultural values, and operating norms.his or her own region, function, or product or service Most people understand intuitively that collaborative leadership is thecategory, without much responsibility—or incen- opposite of the old command-and-control model, but the differences withtive—for aligning the organization’s various projects a consensus-based approach are more nuanced. Below are some helpful disand operations into a coherent whole. tinctions between the three leadership styles. At Brazil’s Natura Cosméticos, CEO AlessandroCarlucci has instituted a comprehensive “engage- Comparing three STYLES OF LEADERSHIPment process” that promotes a collaborative mind- Commandset at all levels and has helped the firm win a top and Control Consensus Collaborativespot on Fortune’s list of best companies for leaders. Hierarchy Matrix or small group Dispersed, cross-The process was implemented after Natura’s highly Organizational structure organizationalsuccessful IPO in 2004, when competing agendas networkamong the senior managers began to threaten the Senior management Formally designated Employees at all lev-company’s prospects. Carlucci decided he needed members or represen- els and locations and Who has the tatives of the relevant a variety of externalto reorganize the executive committee to unify its relevant information? geographies and stakeholdersmembers around common goals and stop the power disciplinesstruggles. He asked the members of the top team tomake a commitment to self-development as part of The people at the top All parties have equal The people leading Who has the of the organization authority collaborations havetheir stewardship of the company. authority to have clear authority clear authority Each executive embarked on a “personal journey” make final decisions?with an external coach, who met with everyone in-dividually and with the team as a group. “It is a dif- Financial results Many performance Performance onferent type of coaching,” Carlucci explains. “It’s not What is the against plan indicators, by function achieving shared basis forjust talking to your boss or subordinates but talking accountability or geography goals and control?about a person’s life history, with their families; it ismore holistic, broader, integrating all the different Works well within a Works in small teams; Works well for diverseroles of a human being.” defined hierarchy; works poorly when groups and cross-unit works poorly for speed is important and cross-company Roberto Pedote, Natura’s senior vice president Where does it complex organizations work, and when inno- work best?for finance, IT, and legal affairs, adds: “I think that and when innovation vation and creativitythe main point is that we are making ourselves vul- is important are criticalnerable, showing that we are not supermen, that wehave failures; that we are afraid of some things andwe don’t have all the answers.” Since the engagement process was adopted, Natu- will make them look good over tasks that will helpra’s executives have become much better at teaming them learn. A shift toward learning goals will makeup on efforts to improve the business, which grew managers more open to exploring opportunities toby 21% in 2010. The collaborative mind-set at the top acquire knowledge from others.has cascaded down to the rest of the organization, At HCL, CEO Vineet Nayar demonstrated his com-and the process has been rolled out to all the com- mitment to collaboration by adopting a radically dif-pany’s managers. ferent 360-degree evaluation for his top managers— If leaders are to encourage more innovation one that invited a wide range of employees to weighthrough partnerships across sectors and with suppli- in. Although the company had done 360-degreeers, customers, and consumers, they need to stop re- reviews before, each manager had been assessed bylying heavily on short-term performance indicators. a relatively small number of people, mostly withinAccording to the psychologist Carol Dweck, people the manager’s immediate span of control. As Nayarare driven to do tasks by either performance or learn- recalls in his book Employees First, Customers Sec-ing goals. When performance goals dominate an en- ond (Harvard Business Review Press, 2010), “mostvironment, people are motivated to show others that of the respondents operated within the same areathey have a valued attribute, such as intelligence or as the person they were evaluating. This reinforcedleadership. When learning goals dominate, they are the boundaries between the parts of the pyramid.motivated to develop the attribute. Performance But we were trying to change all that. We wanted togoals, she finds, induce people to favor tasks that encourage people to operate across these bound July–August 2011 Harvard Business Review 7
Spotlight on collaborationWhen people try to collaborate on everything,they can wind up in endless meetings, debatingideas and struggling to find consensus. aries.” Nayar set the tone by posting his own 360- someone can end the discussion and make a final degree evaluation on the web. Once executives call. Although constructive confrontation and tem- got used to the new transparency, the 360-degree pered disagreements are encouraged, battles aren’t reviews were expanded to a broader group. A new left raging on. This is exactly how things work at feature, “Happy Feet,” was added, allowing all em- Reckitt Benckiser. When teams meet, people know ployees whom a manager might affect or influence that it is OK—in fact expected—to propose ideas to evaluate that manager—regardless of their report- and challenge one another. They debate loudly and ing relationship. furiously until the best idea wins. If no obviousTaking YourCollaborative Depoliticizing senior management so that ex- agreement is reached in time, the person chairingPulse ecutives are rewarded for collaborating rather than the meeting normally makes a decision and the rest promoting their individual agendas is an absolute es- of the group falls in line. This ensures vigorous de- sential. At Reckitt Benckiser, there’s little tolerance bate but clear decisions and quick action—diversity for politics. Says Bart Becht: “We go out of our way in counsel, unity in command, as Cyrus the Great to make sure that politics get eradicated, because once said.Show a I think they’re very bad for an organization. I thinkStrong Hand they’re poison, to be honest with you.” Becht’s direct, Loosening ControlHave you killed any col-laboration projects in the no-nonsense style and the expectation that people Without Losing Controlpast six months? should openly disagree with one another in meet- In the old world of silos and solo players, leaders had ings also help keep politics to a minimum, allowing access to everything they needed under one roof,Do you manage dynam-ically—forming and real teamwork to take hold. and a command-and-control style served them well.disbanding teams quickly But things have changed: The world has becomeas opportunities arise? Show a Strong Hand much more interconnected, and if executives don’tDo the right people in Once leaders start getting employees to collaborate, know how to tap into the power of those connec-your organization know they face a different problem: overdoing it. Too of- tions, they’ll be left behind.they can “close” a discus-sion and make a decision? ten people will try to collaborate on everything and Leaders today must be able to harness ideas, wind up in endless meetings, debating ideas and people, and resources from across boundaries of allDoes your team debateideas vigorously but then struggling to find consensus. They can’t reach deci- kinds. That requires reinventing their talent strate-unite behind decisions sions and execute quickly. Collaboration becomes gies and building strong connections both inside andmade? not the oil greasing the wheel but the sand grinding outside their organizations. To get all the disparate it to a halt. players to work together effectively, they also need Effective collaborative leaders assume a strong to know when to wield influence rather than author- role directing teams. They maintain agility by form- ity to move things forward, and when to halt unpro- ing and disbanding them as opportunities come and ductive discussions, squash politicking, and make go—in much the same way that Hollywood produc- final calls. ers, directors, actors, writers, and technicians es- Differences in convictions, cultural values, and tablish teams for the life of movie projects. Collab- operating norms inevitably add complexity to collab- orative efforts are highly fluid and not confined to orative efforts. But they also make them richer, more company silos. innovative, and more valuable. Getting that value is Effective leaders also assign clear decision rights the heart of collaborative leadership. and responsibilities, so that at the appropriate point HBR Reprint R1107D8 Harvard Business Review July–August 2011
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