Home Concepts Strategy Coaching with Groups and Teams Collaborating for Survival and Success: Organizational Coaching Strategies to Meet Unique Opportunities and Challenges

Collaborating for Survival and Success: Organizational Coaching Strategies to Meet Unique Opportunities and Challenges

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Coaching as a Venue for Leadership Development

The primary role of leaders in a traditional, hierarchical organization is to monitor and control the ongoing operations of the organization. By contrast, leaders in a collaborative venture must influence (but can not control) the functions and operations of this venture—a difficult role that one is not automatically prepared to assume without the support (and challenge) of an organizational coach. Rosabeth Kanter provides us with some valuable insights regarding collaboration that we can apply to our understanding of leadership and the coaching of leaders.  She identifies five integrative functions that must operate in any successful collaborative relationship: strategic, tactical, operational, interpersonal, and cultural. I believe that each of these integrative functions requires effective leadership and that coaches can exemplify these functions in their own collaborative relationship with a client.

The strategic integrative function is served when the various leaders of companies participating in a collaborative venture keep in touch with one another. This way they not only share information about their individual companies, they also solve their mutual problems within the collaborative venture. The leadership function that addresses the need for tactical integration is provided, typically, not by those at the top of the participating companies, but rather by mid-level managers who develop plans for specific projects or joint activities of the venture. It is important for a collaboration coach to frequently remind her client of this distinction. Mid-managers may even suggest changes in the structures of their own organizations–or the collaborative venture—to ensure that the cooperative efforts of each company are being employed in an effective and efficient manner. I have found that when leadership is only provided at the top of participating companies, the collaboration is likely to be nothing more than a novelty or pet project of the CEOs.

A third leadership function in collaborative ventures addresses the need for operational integration. This involves the provision of adequate resources (information, time, money, expertise) so that people doing the collaborative projects and activities can actually carry out the day-to-day work. A collaboration coach can often help her client identify these essential resources, and may have to remind her client of the need for these resources on frequent occasions.

The fourth leadership function, interpersonal integration, is provided by collaborative leaders at all levels of an organization. In strategizing with their collaboration coaches, the formal leaders in a collaborative venture will often bring together people from different levels of all the participating organizations to get to know each other on a personal basis (much as the formal leaders typically got to know each other when forging the collaboration).  This is certainly one of the strategies that Marilyn Taylor proposed in her case study commentary. In the future, we may find that the highly successful team-building and community-building strategies employed by organization development consultants may be used or at least suggested more frequently by organizational coaches. This is certainly an area where coaching and consulting overlap.

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