Employers can “future-proof” their businesses by making collaboration the norm, but this requires leaders to share their fears and vulnerabilities, according to entrepreneur and author Janine Garner.
Garner, the founder and CEO of LBDGroup, says commercial collaboration is “the key to endless opportunities to future-proof your business”.
The problem is, the default “operating system” for many leaders is to protect themselves and avoid sharing their thoughts and ideas.
“We continue to find it challenging to actively open doors for someone else to achieve success and expect nothing in return,” Garner says in her new book,From Me to We.
Further, our motivation to innovate is often compromised by a reluctance to take risks.
“As leaders, business owners, and individuals, we are caught between two worlds: one that thrives on volatility and one that craves stability. There is an ongoing tug of war between the pursuit of growth on one side and a desire for control and constancy on the other.”
But in order for businesses to innovate and thrive, leaders must turn from “the solitary space of Me” to “the collaborative space of We”.
Operating in the “Me” space is isolating, and “more about survival than progression”, Garner says.
“[Great] potential can be created when leaders move from being solely focused on Me – my skills, my job, my business, my leadership challenges – to working freely in a world of We, where there is active collaboration and sharing of knowledge, insight and intellect.”
Strive for full disclosure
Active collaboration fosters the freedom to invent and innovate, Garner says.
But it will not be successful unless there is “full disclosure – of strengths, skills, talent, goals and successes”, and openness regarding threats and weaknesses, she says.
On one hand, leaders need to stand “comfortably and confidently” in the knowledge of their skills, expertise and big-picture goals.
But they also need to cultivate “hidden and previously untapped skills”, such as:
- showing vulnerability;
- having the courage to speak up and stand in their own spotlight;
- facing fears; and
- learning from failure.
In doing so, they will give their people the courage and confidence to collaborate, Garner says.
“As author Simon Sinek said in his TED talk ‘Why good leaders make you feel safe’: ‘If you get the environment right every single one of us has the capacity to do remarkable things’.
“Sinek says that belief, trust and cooperation are created when people feel safe… If people feel safe they seize the opportunity to evolve, do more, disrupt and innovate, to try and fail.”
Vulnerability is scary and sometimes uncomfortable – it takes courage – but it’s an essential part of being open and transparent, she says.
By sharing our thoughts, feelings, worries and concerns, we “open the door” to:
- letting others in;
- gaining support;
- meeting new people;
- trying new experiences; and
- developing a new way of thinking.
Leaders can start by making a concerted effort to: share their story with their peers; involve others in the decision-making process; and be willing to ask for help when they need it.
They also need to start viewing failure as an opportunity to learn, and fear as a precursor to success.
“Facing fear head on, with others, builds strength, resilience and determination,” Garner says, but it’s important for leaders to understand their fear.
Questions that can help them do that include:
- Is it a healthy fear, or one that is based purely on your own insecurities and self doubts?
- Is it a valid fear or more about not knowing how to overcome it, not having the answers yet?
- Is it a fear that is serving no purpose to your end goal?
- Is it actually a fear that needs to be dismissed?
“Imagine how easy it is to answer these questions about fear if you open up to your network and circle of influence. As the saying goes, ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’,” she says.