The Power of &

Posted Wednesday, August 1, 2012

By Dr. Allen Slade, ACC

Why Slade & Associates? Why not Allen Slade, LLC or some other name for this professional services firm? When I formed Slade & Associates in 1988, I knew my work. Whether I was training, writing, teaching or consulting, my best work happened with others. This is not a personality issue, since I am somewhat of an introvert. Instead, my work improves with the power of the team, the power of dialogue, the power of shared accountability. The power of &.

“How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” Our internal thinking can be a bit chaotic and illogical. When we share those thoughts with others, our thinking improves. The rules of language, the articulation of logic and the fear of looking foolish impose a discipline on our thinking that improves our ideas. Once we share our ideas, the power of dialogue kicks in. The people around us can sharpen our ideas with powerful questions, new information or with alternative ideas. The richness of the dialogue drives the quality of the insights.

For collaboration to work well, we need to work with people who we value and trust. We need to have people both challenge our thinking and support our work. At Slade & Associates, the people I choose to work with – my associates – make me better. They are confident, committed, and competent. They make me better. Together, we make our clients better.

The Slade & Associates mission is creating “Dialogue & Insight for Intelligent Change”. (Can you tell I like ampersands? This post could have been titled “The Power of & & &”.) We do not put on our expert armor when working with our clients. We don’t assume the consultant or coach has all the answers. Instead, my associates and I assume our clients are the experts in their own situation. We help move the dialogue along to create insight. We ask powerful questions. We bring in new concepts and new data. We light the match. Then, with our clients, we fan the flames to create insight to ignite intelligent change.

Do the people around you make you better? Does your thinking improve when you share it? If not, consider what is blocking the power of & for you.

You may not have the supportive environment you need for the power of &. Some work environments are too competitive for collaboration to really work. At Microsoft, many of my fellow directors had sharp elbows. The rewards for individual performance and the culture of the organization often overwhelmed the power of &.

If you are not experiencing the power of &, what can you do to increase collaboration? Three thoughts:

1. As a leader, you are responsible for maximizing the collaboration of your team. Get feedback on the level of collaboration on your team and figure out ways to increase collaboration. Do this with your team, not for them.

2. If your colleagues at work don’t trigger the power of & for you, consider creating a circle of trusted advisors for yourself. Find wise people with trustworthy motives and different perspectives. Open your thinking and plans to them. Dialogue with your circle of trusted advisors. Talk, listen and learn for your benefit and for theirs. Pay it forward by mentoring others.

3. Sometimes the fault lies within us. I can build healthy relationships through service, reciprocity and active listening. Or I can undermine my relationships with self-serving behaviors, a desire to take without giving and talking too much. To get the power of &, I need to do more than my part. If the people around me reciprocate by doing more than their part, we are on the way to powerful collaboration.

Create a collaborative environment with your team. Build a circle of trusted advisors. Reciprocate and listen. Go get the power of &, but don’t go alone.

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