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Smashing the Silos Series #1

Tips for Breaking Down Barriers and Playing Together Better
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This series of tips is for leaders who are serious about getting their teams working together with others in a collaborative way for greater innovation, effectiveness and learning.  Small steps which are crucial for building integrated ways of working and smashing the silos that create slow, cumbersome and outdated modes of delivery. 

Tip #1 - Open the Doors– Build a Relationship

Other teams and work units can have seemingly impenetrably closed doors. They won’t play, but your team wants to. You’re keen to find ways of approaching the work you do in a more cohesive and integrated way, but when you go to implement any discussion on doing it, it seems like the door is slammed in your face.

There is a simple first step – build a relationship. Find out what they do and how they do it; ask to learn from them in any of the ways that your work intersects with theirs.  Be willing to see the world as they see it first, before giving them yours.  The great tenet of Steven Covey – Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood reminds us that the strongest relationships are built on empathy and understanding.  Ask them about achievements, find out their skills and genuinely build a connection. Do this on an individual and team basis. Reflect on how as a team you could contribute to their success as your interaction increases. Show your support of their team projects and goals in whatever way you can.

Expecting people to work with us because we want them to, or it makes sense to, is not enough. To collaborate authentically takes trust and commitment. We don’t trust people we don’t know very well. Even if we work in the same organisation, we can co-exist with people we have never really spoken to, don’t know what exactly they do and the impact on organisational purpose. We can change this by making the move to build a relationship first. This leads to a greater understanding of each others’ approach and purpose. After that – the foundation is set for deeper, collaborative work together.

Taking the time to build authentic relationships outside of our own team will find those doors opening from the inside, rather than having to take a sledge hammer to them.
Here’s a 'Collaboration Doorway' template for you to prompt some thinking about other teams.
Reflect on these and other questions about the team you are wanting to build a collaborative relationship with.  This will enable you to see the world through their eyes that little bit more, and gain insight into how you might build a trusting working relationship.
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The Smashing the Silos Leadership Program is a focused strategic approach to building collaborative capacity in your workplace – working with senior and middle management and collaborative champions within your organisation. To find out more contact me on

Tracey Ezard is a collaboration and learning expert who works with organisations and leaders to gain momentum.  Get ahead of the wave through engagement, collaboration and action. Talk with Tracey about her innovative approaches to bringing leaders and teams into space of collaboration through leadership, learning and strategy.