Collaborating with Colleagues
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This article was adapted and expanded from the Creating and Enabling Leadership Teams webcast presented to the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania.
Problems Faced By Today's Leaders
One of the most difficult aspects of working in a group of people, especially as a prospective leader or group manager, is ensuring that your team is able to align with and execute important business objectives as they arise.
A major roadblock when it comes to effectively managing a cohesive team is the amount of information you have at your disposal. Questions like “What is the timeline for the completion of this project?” and “What impact will this project or initiative have on our business?” are pressing questions a leader will have to answer when beginning a collaborative project with team members.
To help resolve these types of important questions, group leaders frequently turn to long-term strategic plans and financial models to help clarify the ramifications underlying each possible trajectory, as well as the overall feasibility of a specific project plan. While financial models and strategic plans offer insight that can help orient a project or group, how a leader utilizes this information to communicate and interact with their group members is just as crucial.
By equipping leadership teams with a tool like Synario, it is possible to shift the focus of a team toward understanding the long-term financial sustainability of the organization as a whole without getting bogged down with the nitty-gritty details.
Synario can also help alleviate the strong emotional reactions many organizational stakeholders have when reorienting the financial or strategic future of a project, initiative, or entire organization. Through thorough analysis, dynamic reports and charts, and multi-user accessibility, Synario shows a comprehensive view of the future that brings consensus to business leaders and employees alike.
To that end, developing a process through which a group gathers information, discusses potential solutions, and reaches consensus around a path forward is the first step to ensuring that a project is completed in a timely and financially stable manner.
With a defined process, a leader as well as their team can feel confident in the decisions they make. A process also acts as a framework that provides a clear course of action toward making financially sound decisions.
From a leadership perspective, the gathering phase is about collecting input from the people and stakeholders who will both implement and be impacted by a potential project, initiative, decision, or direction.
Diversity of perspective, skill, and background generates innovative contributions, and therefore solutions, so it is also critical to understand both your leadership style and your team’s unique strengths and weaknesses during the early stages of your decision-making process. Many leadership teams utilize personality tests like the Enneagram and Myers Briggs Type Indicator to better understand how their respective teams could optimally work together.
Ensuring team diversity and a diverse dataset are also crucial aspects of the gather stage. Lacking diverse ideas, representation, or skillsets can lead to group-think, which stunts cooperation and creates barriers to successful problem-solving.
After gathering input from key members of your organization, it is crucial to understand and clearly define your goals. This is where financial modeling software, such as Synario, can solidify the best course of action in terms of multiple competing variables. By modeling project(s) in Synario, it is possible to establish a timeline or road map for the project with defined goals and quantifiable thresholds.
When modeling, focus on the critical extremes and outliers that have the potential to throw a wrench in the project. Once you have modeled what the project will look like as it unfolds, you can begin creating tasks and timelines for your team members.
Another benefit of financial modeling during the identification stage is to notify management of how your project plan and proposed budget will impact the organization as a whole. This transparency is incredibly important to ensure that every level of the project is in lockstep.
The clarifying stage is about communicating and clarifying specific roles within the team based on the identification of priorities from the previous stage. Talk openly with your team, whether through initial introductions or as a check-in for already formed teams. This is where having a strong knowledge of your team’s individual strengths and weaknesses will benefit you. It allows you to assign tasks with confidence and ensure that no one on your team is left out or is given a task that is beyond their ability.
The clarifying stage is not only a way of making roles more defined but also a simple way to strengthen team relationships as people learn more about their team members. Strong relationships are the ingredient that fosters the resilience necessary for teams to navigate tensions, misunderstandings, or other forms of conflict that are an inevitable part of the collaborative process.
Now comes the project stage with the goal of further clarifying the outcomes and objectives identified in the previous stages. In this stage, testing your initiative, project, or decision through rigorous scenario analysis can reveal hidden ramifications to various aspects of your organization. To get you started, consider the following scenarios:
Develop a baseline or “most likely” scenario first, then create best-case and worst-case scenarios to stress test your prospective project, initiative, or decision. Developing and analyzing three scenarios will help your team and other stakeholders see other possible scenarios to explore.
Synario is known for its ability to help business leaders analyze an unlimited array of potential futures using patented scenario analysis technology. Synario’s micro and macro scenario manager keeps your what-if questions and overarching scenarios organized without needing to create new versions of a financial model. Users can change micro scenario elements like assumptions and formulas on the fly, allowing for fast sensitivity analysis during meetings or presentations. Alternatively, users can save different configurations of micro scenario elements into larger macro scenarios to quickly project different financial futures.
During the Project Stage, Synario’s micro and macro scenario manager can save finance teams valuable time in building and analyzing a variety of key financial scenarios.
When you eventually reach the deciding stage of a project, where you make the decision to move forward or step backward for further analysis, it is important to help your team remember the difference between consensus and agreement.
Groupthink is a common mistake many teams make, i.e. a solution is put forward and the rest of the team goes along with it not because it is the most optimal, but because they do not wish to go against the rest of the group. To that end, total team agreement is not necessarily the team goal, however, team consensus is the goal. Effective team consensus means that your team may not be in total alignment about specific aspects of your plan, however, every team member agrees that the plan effectively accomplishes the original goal.
After making a decision or reaching a consensus; you need to create an implementation plan. To make sure the plan moves forward, implement an accountability plan that effectively distributes and prioritizes tasks and responsibilities. communicating critical milestones to stakeholders and the organization as a whole can also cement the project, initiative, or decision into your organization’s strategic plan as well as hold your team accountable to individuals outside of its own members.
This is again where financial modeling software like Synario is useful as it enables you to build different user-specific dashboards that display important financial and strategic data points without the clutter or risk of managing and sharing complete spreadsheet-based financial models.
Collaborating with Colleagues – Summary
As you begin your collaborative project journey, you as a leader must assess the strengths and weaknesses of your team and assign informal roles. Then clarify the goals of the project by talking through objectives and potential roadblocks, both external and internal, with your team.
Throughout your planning process ask yourself, “what does a bad decision cost us?” A good financial modeling regime facilitates informed decision-making, allowing organizations to bypass the strategic and financial drawbacks of an unanticipated negative outcome on a mission-critical decision. By using tools like Synario, teams can spend less time arguing over under-analyzed future outcomes and more time efficiently coordinating resources to communicate and execute organizational goals.
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