Yangon, 27 March 2019 — Bringing stakeholders together for collaboration brings higher levels of risks and rewards. Make sure you have the leadership skills to pull it off.
For advocates of water management and sustainability, one of the biggest challenges is to reach out to stakeholders and bring them on board to create positive changes together.
As is often said, collaboration is easier said than done. There are good reasons why this is the case, and they are worth exploring. Bringing stakeholders together raises the stakes for generating change, increasing both the level of risks and the rewards.
For me personally, the challenge of bringing people to collaborate was what led me to shift in my career from working as a international water professional to becoming a leadership trainer and coach. When I realized that most water problems in our world today are more about people than about water, the choice was clear for me.
Bridging divides and forging collaboration is not easy at all. Being effective in building partnerships goes well beyond having good intentions. It needs a different attitude and several new skill sets.
Bringing stakeholders together raises expectations and increase the pressure for change and useful results to be achieved together. I learned early on that projects with a participatory approach often required more time and budget, and that creating and sustaining results was a challenge with their higher levels of complexity.
Without the parties finding each other and discovering new ways to level up their performance together, trust could easily be lost and frustrations could rise, leading to a withdrawal from the fragile collaboration process and a return to working in silos. That would make it harder to restart the participatory approach a second time.
Building bridges needs leaders. Good intentions are not enough to build collaboration. Without leaders and leadership, many of the more challenging projects will fail to produce positive changes. The good news is that even without positions of authority, modern leaders (influencers) can make such changes happen.
I have learned how three approaches, in particular, can make a big difference.
Six Leadership Roles
There is not just one way of exerting leadership. A good way to start developing your leadership abilities is to develop competencies in one or more of these six leadership roles: champion leader, enabling leader, cross-boundary team leader, thought leader, strategic leader, and trusted advisor.
Seven Leadership Languages
For you to get your message across and influence stakeholders to collaborate in creating positive changes together, the language you use has to touch both the head and the heart of your audience, as famously explained by President Nelson Mandela, who came to master this ability. You can explore these seven languages in the Work In All Colors course. Each of these seven languages also offers a specific style of leadership.
Have you noticed how we are in the middle of a 21st-century leadership revolution that has shifted us away dramatically from the previous paradigm of leaders (10%) and followers (90%) to a world where almost everyone can become a leader, supported by technology that can empower us both individually and collectively?
Investing in, and collaborating with emerging leaders, is now the way to go to accelerate positive change and innovation in your business, organization, project, or community. For senior professionals and executives, this will often require a willingness to unlearn and learn anew, as previous solutions for success may no longer work as well today.
If you are passionate about building collaboration with a diverse group of stakeholders, these three approaches will help you get to where you want to be.
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