Creating Alignment in the Workplace Using The Collaborative Way® Leadership Model

Virginia Hoekenga
October 13, 2020
Creating Alignment in the Workplace
Leadership skills and behaviors are a critical focus of NAEM's EHS & Sustainability Management Forum. We sat down (virtually) with Ian Edwards, senior consultant at The Collaborative Way® (TCW) and 2020 Forum keynote speaker, to discuss this model's mindset, toolset and skillset.

1. What is The Collaborative Way?

The Collaborative Way® is an intentional way of working together that enhances an organization's ability to accomplish its critical objectives. The challenge is that we all come to the workplace with widely different backgrounds and expectations about how we are supposed to work together. As a result, organizations are prone to misunderstandings, upsets and ineffectiveness.

In order to create an effective working environment, every person needs to be using a common, intentional and proven way of working together. The Collaborative Way® is one such model. It is a simple model that provides the mindsets, skillsets and toolsets for effective collaboration, while producing a powerful structure for ongoing improvement. For well over two decades, it has proven its ability to provide a critical strategic advantage and satisfying workplace. Our clients often say that The Collaborative Way is a very welcome and unexpected improvement in their relationships.

2. What are the key elements or driving beliefs that underpin The Collaborative Way?

At its core, one driving mindset is to take more responsibility to advance your most critical goals, mission and vision through 5 practices:

Listen Generously- Pay attention FULLY; listen to learn — NOT to respond; Replicate (Paraphrase) and Understand the other person from THEIR perspective.

Speak Straight - Speak up, especially when it is uncomfortable; speak directly and honestly; make clear and direct requests to establish SMART commitments.

Be For Each Other - Support EACH person's success — support is NOT supporting only those that meet your approval; look for positive intent, do regular check-ins and clean-ups to address directly "emotional residues” (e.g. resentments, disappointments or frustrations with another person).

Honor Commitments – Step in fully to rigorously honor commitments with another person, and stand in deep integrity in honoring your word and to support others in their commitments to you.

Appreciate and Acknowledge - Notice opportunities to give acknowledgment and appreciation with depth and authenticity.

These practices are simple and common-sense; they are not, however, easy — nor are they common practice.

3. What do Listening Generously and Speaking Straight mean to you?

Listening Generously is to be fully present with the other person; giving generously your FULL attention while remaining open to being influenced; working hard to grasp, as best you can, what it is like to be in their situation.

Speaking Straight is being willing to be uncomfortable when there is something that needs to be brought forward into a conversation. Speaking Straight is NOT organizing ourselves around avoiding our discomfort or dodging potential conflicts. Speaking Straight is NOT dumping, venting, holding back relevant viewpoints, nor is it trying to be right. It is about having open dialogues such that each person's perspective is voiced, and the most forwarding perspective can be crafted and adopted as the way forward.

4. What advice do you have for EHS&S leaders looking to improve communication in the “New Abnormal” of remote work and virtual meetings?

1 - Create and require extremely clear meeting purpose and guidelines. Examples:
  1. Everyone is responsible for the success of the meeting.
  2. Every meeting has a clear and mutually understood goal. (This meeting will be successfully completed when ___.) There must be a clear agenda that accomplishes the meeting goal in the time allotted.
  3. One person speaks at a time, everyone else is listening and supportive of all opinions (looking for positive intent — focus on how can this help, NOT how it won't help.
  4. Focus on the speaker, no emails, no texting etc. Take responsibility for this meeting and your time. Don't waste your or other people's time.
2 - If you want to influence action, take your listening to a new level. Pay FULL attention to the speaker, listening for and being curious about what you can learn from this conversation. Especially if you notice that you are drifting away from listening to them and are beginning to listen to your own thoughts. Clarify what you heard, validate their intent.

3 - Speak up and Speak Straight (honest, direct and in a way that can be heard). Create an environment where others feel safe to speak up with relevant contributions. When you are speaking, take responsibility for what people heard and for your impact on them. Ensure alignment between your intent and the impact on them.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
— George Bernard Shaw

About the Author

Virginia Hoekenga
Responsible for developing NAEM's educational programing, Virginia works closely with NAEM members to develop the annual EHS & Sustainability Management Forum, the largest gathering of EHS&S decision-makers. To get involved with the Forum, contact her at [virginia at naem dot org].

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