Part of a leader’s job is to focus on creating collaboration and trust – not silos – in  teams and organisations.  High performance is likely to occur when organisations are able to work easily across functions.

However, when the pressure is on or something goes wrong, what we often see is people pulling outwards, going into a self-preservation mindset and disappearing into their silos.

What is the reason?

It can be a two-fold problem boiling down to a lack of ‘psychological safety’ established throughout the organisational culture and outdated hierarchal structures that are rigid and inflexible.

If I was to ask you:

Who do you think is in control of the aircraft when most aviation crashes occur historically?

Most people’s logical brain would suggest anyone other than the captain. An answer that makes logical sense considering they are the pilot with the most experience. In fact, planes are always safer when the least experienced pilot is charged with the controls because the second pilot (e.g. the captain) is not afraid to speak up when they feel something may be amiss.

If we work in a global organisation then leadership and relevant training need to be on point. A Dutch psychologist, Hofstede was tasked with travelling the globe to ask employees, as part of his role within Human Resources (HR) things such as:

How do you solve problems?

How do you work together?

What are your attitudes towards authority?

The results were shocking but informative. By the very nature of cultural socialisation people may deal with risk, uncertainty, and the power differential in unique and different ways.

It has the potential to shift the expectations we hold for individuals from different cultures and ensure individual training needs are met rather than assumed.


Collaboration against the odds

An extraordinary example of cross-collaboration took place in Chile, in 2010 in which 33 miners were trapped 700 meters below ground.

Buried beneath dense rock the chance of survival was calculated at 10% but rapidly declined after two days. However, after 70 days the last of the 33 miners was hauled to safety in a feat that seemed impossible


Four Fast Leadership Lessons

1. Create a culture that allows people to combine their unique skills into a greater intelligence through a climate of shared vulnerability. Let people know it is okay to admit that they do not hold all the answers. Initial expert teams in Chile openly asked for help as they alone didn’t have the solutions to solve the problem.

2. It is really hard to assume trust when our brains are hardwired to be tribal. Anyone who we perceive as different pulls the alarm cord of the ‘amygdala’, a powerful part of our brain instructing our inner voice not to trust. However, if we are to supercharge our team’s potential for creativity and innovation we need to assume trust fast. A quick hack is to find something in common with the other person. Your brain then starts to recruit the person(s) through the mechanism that filters people directly into your in-crowd rather than the out.

3. Create a collective mindset that recognises failure as an important part of the journey. Innovation and creativity explode when people are given the ‘wriggle room’ to make mistakes fast. The learnings help propel the team in the direction of future success.

4. Instigate a culture for collective fame not individual blame. A culture that pulls inwards rather than outwards when the going gets tough is extremely powerful. When under threat starlings flock together to create a murmuration, a sign of strength and togetherness rather than weakness and vulnerability when flying solo.



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