If there’s anything I’ve learned while building an enterprise over the past two years, it’s that collaboration doesn’t magically happen as a result of adding people to a team.
Collaboration comes from careful preparation and defined processes that foster teamwork.
Before I get into the importance of developing processes as a leader, let me tell you a bit about how I came to this realization.
I’m CEO of The Global Good Fund (www.globalgoodfund.org). Each year we select a group of high potential young social leaders to enter our organization’s fellowship program. The vetting is competitive and each applicant goes through a selective screening process by our team as well as external stakeholders.
In the first few iterations of the selection process, we identified an issue in the way our team made decisions: despite my attempts to make the selection process a collaborative effort, my team would ultimately defer to me on whether or not an applicant was qualified.
While I remain the ultimate decision maker, I realized I needed to step back and empower my colleagues to make decisions for themselves.
They were persuaded by my opinions too early in the process and weren’t forming opinions of their own . . . this needed to change!
A truly collaborative environment required us to outline a formal process for selecting fellows that would be conducive to group decision making. In our new model, I take a step back and allow my team to form their own thoughts and opinions—without my input. Only when a candidate advances to further analysis in the selection process do I weigh in.
As part of this new approach, we defined criteria that allowed the team to deliberate on fellows based on concrete, weighted qualifications. The team would review a variety of evidence from each applicant to make informed decisions and we then engaged a third party to follow up for the sake of quality control and risk management.
Implementing a process where I took a step back from early decision making allowed my team to harness collective decision making authority and reduced team bias. While my colleagues appeared hesitant at first, they quickly felt empowered and owned the newly formed process.
Defining a clear process and communicating the model allowed the team to be less vulnerable in their decision-making; it provided clear expectations and accountabilities, ultimately mitigating risk and improving quality. This new process gave my team confidence that we were making the right decisions—defensible decisions the team could get behind and rationalize.
In establishing new processes within my enterprise, I stumbled on few quick tips:
1. Pivot when necessary:
When setting up processes, it is important to be lean. Continually assess these processes along the way and iterate as necessary.
2. Don’t be transactionally driven:
Many people confuse processes with transactions. As a leader, we have to look beyond the black and white into the gray area of situations. That means being open to new ideas, shifting the plan and allowing for wiggle room to maintain a personal, human-centered approach.
3. Let go:
Defining and executing on a process will make the team stronger and more confident in their own capabilities. The result is more time in your busy schedule to focus attention on other important responsibilities.
My experience at The Global Good Fund taught me that practice doesn’t always make perfect, but practice plus process gets us one step closer.
Carrie Rich is the co-founder and CEO of The Global Good Fund, an organization dedicated to investing in the leadership development of high potential young entrepreneurs committed to social impact. Carrie enjoys photography, other people’s cooking and jogging, on occasion.
Image credit: CC by Kevin Steinhardt