Is collaboration the key to great leadership?

Posted: Apr 04  |  By: Janet Berry-Johnson

The past two decades have brought a surge in leadership development and a growing recognition of its importance within organizations. Not coincidentally, that is about the same length of time that the internet has been widely available – and what is the internet if not a means to exchange ideas and work together? Put another way, collaboration fuels leadership and today’s organizations need great leadership.

We live in an increasingly complex and challenging environment where businesses must continuously seek innovative solutions to increase productivity, encourage growth and engage talent. In this environment, the “silo mentality” of certain departments or sectors hoarding knowledge is a clear waste of collective brainpower and a killer of efficiency, morale and even company culture. Now, more than ever, leaders need to tap into the intelligence and resourcefulness of their entire team. Collaboration is not a “nice to have” – it’s an essential ingredient for organizational success.

Collaboration is essential at all levels of a company, but any behavioral principle starts with the tone at the top.

CFO/CIO Collaboration

Finance leaders are increasingly concerned with cybersecurity, data analytics and other technological innovations, so it’s no surprise that CFOs are becoming much more aware of the strategic value of IT.

When EY surveyed 652 CFOs and financial leaders, they found 61 percent of CFOs report increased collaboration with CIOs in the last three years, and 71 percent say they’ve increased involvement in the IT agenda. IT is a significant part of the budget for most modern organizations, but CFOs are focusing not only on what IT costs but on the value it brings.

As technology plays a larger role in driving company value and competitive advantage, collaboration between the CFO and CIO can help connect IT investment strategies to shareholder value.

CFO/CMO Collaboration

In the past, marketing departments evaluated customer wants, needs and behaviors through focus groups and the results of promotional campaigns. But in today’s digital economy, numbers provide more reliable feedback than customers. Now, marketing departments look a lot like finance departments, using sophisticated analytics tools to combine financial data with more traditional marketing insights.

According to EY, 54 percent of CFOs say collaboration with the chief marketing officer (CMO) has increased. When finance and marketing combine their different skills and perspectives to the common goal of driving profitable, sustainable growth, this collaboration can spell the difference between growth and stagnation.

CFO/CHRO or CTO Collaboration

Ask most leaders to identify their business’ greatest asset and the answer is simple: their people are the number one driver of growth and performance. But in most companies, between salaries and benefits, payroll taxes, recruiting and training, people are often also their single largest expense.

That’s why it’s crucial for CFOs to collaborate with the chief human resource officer (CHRO) or chief talent officer (CTO) to ensure that strategic initiatives consider both financial and human resources impacts of their decisions.

When EY surveyed 550 finance and HR leaders, 80 percent said the relationship between CFO and CHRO has become more collaborative in the past three years. It’s not surprising when you consider that a CFO’s top goal it typically profitability – a goal that cannot be achieved without a team operating at full productivity.

Growth initiative such as product launches and expanding into new markets present workforce challenges and opportunities. When CFOs and CHROs collaborate, they can build strategy, budgets and business plans around recruitment, development and compensation.

Technology may make working together easier, but keep in mind that collaboration is more than the technology that supports it. True collaboration is about the attitudes and behaviors of people throughout an organization, starting at the top. When leaders collaborate, everyone has an opportunity to work in an environment that is energizing, creative and productive.

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