COMMUNICATION & COLLABORATION
The Leadership Team Maturity Model
“The art of communication is the language of leadership.”
“Ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one that they sprung up in.”
Collaboration and communication represent the essential circulatory system of strategy and execution. The latest stats aren't good for the health of the circulatory system in most companies as they reveal that 57% of knowledge workers' time is spent in meetings, writing and responding to emails, chats, on the phone, or in impromptu conversations. It's astonishing to consider that over half of employee expenses are dedicated to collaboration and communication activities rather than productive work. There is no starker contrast to the productivity of companies than between companies with low maturity versus high maturity when it comes to collaboration and communication. The investment in maturing an organization's collaboration and communication skills returns one of the highest ROIs, given it comes down to culture, norms, and some technology.
With collaboration and communication skills, we must address the maturity of the leadership team and the broader organization. For high-performing leadership teams, collaboration and communication are core competencies. Without productive collaboration and strong communication, it is hard for leadership teams to generate and execute the ideas necessary to create a leading business model and flow strategic alignment down to front-line team members. They have a culture of trust, teamwork, connection, and openness that is the foundation of solid problem-solving and decision-making. They have a set of spoken or unspoken norms for meetings, emails, and other mediums that infuse interactions with purpose, quality, efficiency, and connectedness.
When it comes to the broader organization, a high-performing leadership team instills and continuously reinforces the strong culture and norms of the leadership team's collaboration and communication throughout the entire organization to ensure most meetings, emails, and interactions have a high level of purpose, quality, efficiency, and connectedness. As the leadership team's collaboration and communication goes, so does the rest of the organization. High-performing teams focus on getting more value from less time spent collaborating and communicating throughout the organization. They deeply understand the massive organizational opportunity cost in terms of wasted time and energy in too many, lengthy, and low-value meetings and emails and are vigilant in fighting the constant natural tendency towards organizational entropy when it comes to collaboration and communication. Two hours of ten team members' time wasted in a useless meeting rather than spent pushing the business forward, multiplied thousands of times a year across an organization, comes at an astronomical cost to productivity and progress. They also strategically use technology, coordinate and optimize calendars, craft focused agendas, drive to the essential outputs of interactions, and more to foster more effective and efficient collaboration and communication. They spend a lot of energy ensuring organizational collaboration and communication is a strategic asset that pushes the business model forward, not an anchor to productivity and progress.
1. Communication & Collaboration Culture: High-maturity organizations cultivate a culture of trust, teamwork, and efficiency in collaboration and communication, focusing on advancing the business with purposeful interactions and minimizing politics that prioritize individual agendas over team goals.
2. Norms: High-performing teams establish clear and explicit norms that enhance the purpose, quality, efficiency, and connectedness of collaboration and communication, guiding interactions toward strategic progress and reducing inefficiencies.
3. Connectedness: Mature organizations prioritize building deep connections among team members, understanding that trust and personal bonds fostered through effective communication and collaboration are essential for optimal problem-solving and decision-making.
4. Technology: High-maturity organizations strategically leverage technology to streamline communication and collaboration, adopting best-in-class tools to enhance efficiency and effectiveness, reducing reliance on meetings and emails, and freeing up time for high-value work.
1. Collaboration & Communication Culture
Leadership teams with low-maturity collaboration and communication often devolve their organizations into collaboration and communication hell, the typical cause being the undiagnosed disease of politics, which I define as the misalignment of goals of individuals. And the misalignment of goals is born from people valuing self-promotion and self-preservation over the teams' goal of pushing the business forward. You see the symptoms of politics everywhere in the interactions of a diseased leadership team and organization. You see it in the constant update emails and meetings that are more aimed at justifying people's work and existence than pushing initiatives and projects forward. You see it in meetings when people focus on what they've done more than collaborating to improve things. You see it in the tense emotions and power dynamics in meetings, conversations, and emails. You see it in the worthless meetings that someone sets up with too many people spending too much time on someone's low-value topics. You see it in people's desperation to justify their work and value rather than trying to improve it. The disease of politics values the individual over the common good.
On the other end of the spectrum, high-performing and mature teams and organizations foster a culture of positive, purposeful, connected, efficient, and quality collaboration and communication. Leaders constantly do the big and little things to protect and reinforce their collaboration and communication culture. Leaders aren't shy about calling out team members' self-promotion and self-orientation and providing feedback to reorient them back to a team and business focus. They lead with authenticity and empathy, developing trust and connectedness while opening up others to be their authentic selves. They ensure collaboration is about pushing the business forward with solid problem solving and value-seeking decisions. They ensure communication drives efficient coordination, alignment of strategies, and execution. They rely on technology (project management software, dynamic portals, messaging apps, idea boards) with embedded best practice methodologies, to do much of the heavy lifting in coordinating and aligning efforts. They intentionally work on minimizing the organization and strategic complexity that can flair up unnecessary low-value collaboration and communication levels. Most importantly, they have developed, deployed, and constantly reinforced a set of norms to ensure collaboration and communication are purposeful, efficient, and high-quality and improve the connectedness of team members.
2. COLLABORATION & COMMUNICATION NORMS
An organization with low maturity collaboration and communication norms is absent of collective norms, leaving the purpose, quality, efficiency, and connectedness of interactions to the individual team members, which is not good. Relying on hundreds or thousands of individuals to independently determine the what, why, who, when, where, and how of collaboration and communication leads to massive inconsistency in the value, quality, efficiency, and connectedness of collaboration and communication. In these organizations, team members often drown in low-value, lengthy, and inefficient emails, meetings, and interactions. People seem to be interacting for interaction’s sake, not to push the business forward. They often don’t know what excellence is or how to get there and aren’t motivated to strive for excellence as the organization constantly pulls them to reversion of the mean.
Team members collectively learn and teach others excellence through organizational norms guiding excellence in collaboration and communication. Norms are the standard of and pattern in social behavior typical or expected of a group. High-maturity collaboration and communication organizations are extremely intentional about defining, training, and reinforcing what excellence is in the purpose, quality, efficiency, and connectedness of interactions.
2A. Purpose Norms
High-maturity organizations infuse purpose into all their interactions. Team members are expected to create solid value-oriented agendas for meetings focused on outputs and an effective process for getting to those outputs. Less than 37% of meetings use agendas, but agendas decrease meeting time by up to 80%. In high-performing organizations, you'll often hear in meetings, "So, what are we trying to solve?" "What is a good outcome of this meeting?" "What are the outputs of this meeting?" Team members consistently write emails with a clearly stated purpose and "ask" of the recipients. In-person status updates are minimized and relegated to the right medium unless problem-solving or critical decisions are needed to push the project and initiative forward. Amazon takes purpose to another level by making the person in charge of a meeting write a 6-page memo outlining the purpose, the arguments and research, essential items to debate, and critical decisions to make, which participants then read in silence at the beginning of a meeting. Leaders take the time to work with people on defining value-maximizing purpose and creating effective agendas and don't tolerate interactions with no or little purpose in driving the business forward. Elevating the purpose of interactions has a material effect on the organization's effectiveness.
2B. Quality Norms
High-maturity organizations have the norms, training, and reinforcement to drive high-quality collaboration and communication. High-quality collaboration norms facilitate strong problem-solving and decision-making. Problem-solving is focused, structured, and creative, builds on others’ ideas, and engenders high trust. Decision-making is objective, rational, inclusive, non-emotional, transparent, and value-optimizing for the business. High-quality written and verbal communication is also focused, structured, direct, concise, clear, prioritized, and well-delivered. Quality is also a function of people being present and engaged. High-maturity organizations have norms such as no phones, texting, or emailing while in a meeting to drive the quality of interactions. While team members are often trained on quality collaboration and communication, much is learned through the norms and behaviors of others, and low performers are provided feedback and mentorship to show them what good is.
2C. Efficiency Norms
Efficiency is output divided by input. Purpose and quality norms focus on improving the output. Efficiency norms concentrate on the input, people’s valuable time and energy. These norms focus on interactions to push the business forward, not on status updates and low-value topics. They minimize unnecessary emails, meetings, and interactions. They ensure as few people as needed are in emails, meetings, and interactions. If emails and meetings average eight people and the org can cut that to six people, the org realizes a 25% decrease in time spent on emails and meetings. There are norms to ensure efficient, well-run meetings. With improved purpose and quality, team members can cut 1-hour meetings to 30- or 45-minutes, stretch weekly meetings to bi-weekly or monthly, and eliminate or combine many meetings. They coordinate and combine corporate news and alerts into one email or webinar or post it on their intranet instead of barraging their team members with dozens of separate communications. High-maturity organizations are vigilant in their collaboration and communication efficiency, understanding the massive opportunity cost of the thousands and potentially millions of wasted hours in low-value interactions.
In the contemporary workplace, fostering a profound sense of connectedness among employees is critical for organizational success. Astonishingly, 94% of employees report experiencing higher productivity levels when they feel strongly connected to their colleagues, underscoring the undeniable link between workplace relationships and overall performance. Furthermore, 78% of employees regard these connections as vital to fostering an outstanding company culture, highlighting the importance of interpersonal bonds in creating a positive work environment.
Despite the clear benefits, a significant gap exists, with only 42% of employees feeling a deep connection to their co-workers. This issue is exacerbated by the growing trend of remote and hybrid work models, which, while offering flexibility and autonomy, can also dilute the sense of team cohesion and belonging. The consequence of a lack of connectedness is not trivial; it directly impacts the organization's ability to collaborate, communicate, and solve problems effectively. Moreover, a disconnected workforce is 4X more likely quit in the subsequent six months, a statistic that is particularly alarming when it involves high performers who may feel underappreciated or isolated from their peers.
Confronting this challenge head-on, high-performing leadership teams prioritize cultivating human connections as a strategic imperative. They recognize that the essence of a high-functioning team extends beyond the mere execution of tasks to foster a workplace where every individual feels recognized, valued, and fundamentally integrated into the organization's social fabric. Such organizations invest in creating an environment that not only values business outcomes but equally emphasizes the importance of nurturing supportive, empathetic, and constructive interactions among team members. Through deliberate efforts to bolster genuine relationships and a supportive network, they engender a culture replete with trust. This pivotal element underpins robust problem-solving capabilities and informed decision-making processes.
These mature leadership teams employ targeted strategies to enhance interpersonal connections within their workforce, appreciating that the strength of these bonds is a critical determinant of employee satisfaction, organizational resilience, and adaptability. The initiatives fortify the company's formal and informal social networks and weave a deeper, more cohesive organizational culture. High-maturity organizations unlock unparalleled levels of employee engagement, operational efficiency, and innovation by fostering a workplace where connections thrive. This strategic focus on connectedness mitigates the challenges of geographical dispersion and virtual work. It lays the foundation for a thriving, agile, and cohesive enterprise poised for sustained success and growth in an ever-evolving business landscape.
3. TECHNOLOGY TO IMPROVE COMMUNICATION & COLLABORATION
In today's digital age, leveraging technology is pivotal for enhancing communication and collaboration within organizations, marking a significant evolution in how teams interact and execute their strategies. High-maturity organizations recognize the transformative power of technology and strategically implement a suite of digital tools and platforms to streamline their communication and collaboration processes. By adopting advanced project management software, real-time messaging apps, shared online documents, and comprehensive business intelligence systems, these teams can significantly reduce the reliance on traditional, time-consuming interaction methods such as meetings, emails, and phone calls.
These technological solutions facilitate a seamless exchange of ideas, ensure all team members have access to the information they need when they need it, and support a dynamic environment where decisions are made swiftly and effectively. Integrating these tools into daily operations allows for a more agile response to challenges and opportunities, encourages a culture of open innovation, and enhances the overall strategic alignment within the organization.
Adopting technology in communication and collaboration is not just about selecting the right tools; it's about reshaping the organizational culture to be more efficient, connected, and forward-thinking. Training and encouraging team members to embrace these technologies ensures their use becomes a natural part of the workflow. This digital transformation enables organizations to improve the quality and efficiency of their internal communication and foster a more connected and cohesive team environment, contributing to the overall success and competitiveness of the business in the digital era.
Ultimately, the strategic use of technology in communication and collaboration represents a critical component of organizational maturity, distinguishing high-performing teams from their counterparts. It's an investment in creating a robust infrastructure that supports innovation, enhances productivity, and cultivates a culture of continuous improvement and excellence. As organizations navigate the complexities of the modern business landscape, the ability to effectively harness technology for communication and collaboration will be a key determinant of their long-term success and sustainability.
Collaboration and Communication Maturity =
Massive New Organizational Capacity
In mature high-performing companies, collaboration and communication are core competencies that drive creativity, alignment, coordination, and performance and free up massive organizational capacity. While the average company team members spend almost 60% of all time collaborating and communicating, high-performing companies are south of that, freeing up often millions of hours of intellectual capacity to execute the strategies that push the business model forward. When organizations get that 60% down to 50%, that 10% swing of waste on low-value interactions to high-value execution translates into a 25% increase (40% to 50%) in organizational capacity to work on improving the value proposition, go-to-market, and efficiency and effectiveness of the organization, not just talking about it. The collaboration and communication maturity journey is one that every company needs to take for the sake of progress and the sanity of their team members. There is too much at stake not to.
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I hope you are enjoying the leadership maturity model. Seeing the rapid improvements leadership teams have realized using the model has been rewarding. As an executive, consultant, and coach, I've worked with many leadership teams over my 25+ year career. If you want to take your leadership team to the next level, I encourage you to learn more about my background and reach out or set up some time if you think there is a fit. We'll work together to develop your team into a high-performing leadership team and your business into a market leader.