In my book, Leadership in Principle and Practice, I make a statement that “ If you go solo, you are very sure to go so low” The truth of the matter is that there is nothing that is important that happens to anyone who acts and works alone. This is both from the family, marketplace, church or society at large. Everyone, from the smallest to the biggest needs to collaborate with someone in order to succeed. Collaboration is easier said than done but it should be done. Effective collaboration requires humility and empathy. In the context of working with others well, humility is the art and science of knowing that you do not know it all. It is an admission that you need help with. In Grade 6, my friend was Vincent Ngundo Nkomo. He knew Mathematics so much and I knew all other subjects except Mathematics. In that way, we had to collaborate daily.
There was a skill that we used to mutually benefit from each other until the examination day when we were separated and there was an invigilator checking that collaboration does not happen. In fact, humility is asking a question and actually wanting to know the answer. Humility is not a sign of insecurity or false modesty. Empathy in collaboration is identifying with the challenges that other people are facing. It is also called getting into their shoes and feel how loose or how tight they are. Empathy is feeling what others are going through. It is actually relating to others and understanding why they do or do not do what they do. In empathizing you acknowledge that whatever someone is going through is as important and valuable as whatever you are also going through. Someone may truly have their issues resentments and grievances and problems.
However, if you still live in this planet, you are going through something too. The size, shape, and color of your issues may be different from those of the other person. It is true that your perspective is valuable, but so is that of others. Empathy is, however, neither sympathy nor pity. In the language of construction, humility and empathy are the brick and mortar to a solid foundation of collaboration. Humility and empathy enable you to both hear and see someone else. They deal with me, myself, and I tendencies. Unless and until you are humble and empathetic you cannot collaborate with others effectively in almost every area of your life. Collaboration works effectively with people who think, look, and feel differently from yourself. People with different experiences make you better after working with them. The number of problems you are experiencing and the associated discomfort is working great for you! Default mode says you should work with people that always agree with you or people you know or who understand you.
While that can be easier, the lessons are either limited or not available at all to challenge you further. When we learn to let our egos go to rest and collaboration takes the reins, there is nothing that we cannot accomplish. Vincent Ngundo and I met at this edge and laugh at how our primary school collaboration worked well until the new teacher came but it taught us a life lesson.
Leaders of organisations all over the world are putting in longer and longer hours and getting more and more frustrated. Information overload, tighter budgets, smaller staff, and global complexities contribute to the sense of overwhelm.
The most common problems we see in any organizations are as a result of breakdowns in communications, ambiguity about roles and responsibilities, poor planning, personal and group conflicts as well as leadership struggles.