How to Build a Human-Centric Business Ecosystem (Part 2) 'The Level of Cooperation'

03/24/2015 04:13 pm ET | Updated May 20, 2015

In the first article I explained that "as a manager and a leader of an organization, whenever I start a restructuring, take over the integration of different business units after an acquisition, or simply when I'm called to manage a new company, the first aspects that I always analyze and make sure I understand well are: the culture, the level of cooperation, the amount of stress of the organization. These three components are the key elements that always help me define the level of healthiness of a business environment."

The focus was about the importance of connecting with the people in an organization at an individual and at a group level, to understand deeply its cultural aspects and dynamics. In doing this I used my business and equestrian experience. The human relationship between individuals, the horse and the rider, as a method to understand and establish a human centric business environment.

In the present article I analyze the second component of the approach, which is the comprehension of the level of cooperation in an organization, to improve and accelerate a sustainable growth.

Cooperation, in most cases is defined as "the process of working together to the same end," or as "a situation in which people work together to do something."

These definitions clearly involve the degree to which people are willing to work and act together for a common purpose. The opposite of a situation of conflict, in which there normally is a combination of antagonism and divergent ideas and goals.

With absence or low level of conflict, I don't mean a situation, whether a business, political or social ecosystem, with no competition at all. In reality a fair and healthy level of competition, as in any game, brings good energy to the organization and the team. It is key to accelerate the achievement of its growth.

A collaborative structure is based in fact on partnership, and affiliation of its members, a fair level of competition, and a clear set of common goals.

Here we get to what I consider to be the key element behind the harmony and collaboration of a team. It is clarity about the shared vision and mission of the company, and the communication of clear and well define shared objectives.

This is the heart of cooperation.

The fundamental role of the leader is to set a clear direction for the business. This is something that can't be artificially created by one person and pushed top down. In order for the leadership to come to a clear and realistic vision, there must always be an alliance between the leader and his / her team, as well as a strong liaison with the rest of the organization. A meaningful vision and mission come from a realistic understanding of the different actors of the organization, and not through a one man show approach.

Almost every time we have a situation of weak P&L and poor performances, there is lack of clarity about the company's ultimate goal, not a clear direction and divergent targets. It is basically similar to a sports coach going to a football game, without giving the team well defined strategies and tactics.

For this reason, a quality check of the leadership of an organization, is the first step in the understanding of the level of cooperation.

What are the key parameters that define an effective versus a not effective leader? My experience taught me that it is not only the competencies and the educational background that define the quality of the person. Personality appears to be a more important feature of the chief in command.

Characteristics such as ego and insecurity, result in an organization dominated by the classic "divide et impera" caesarian rule. This is an environment where the leader's only way to preserve his leadership, and win the war, it is by means of a strategy of division among the people around him. A poor form of leadership that supports only those participants who are open to cooperate with the sovereign.

This behavior creates a structure that is self-centered, egoistic, non-cooperative. A business where people strive hard to look good at the eyes of the leader, trying to bring home only personal - selfish results and benefits. A community of people with a low energy level, always negative, and stressed.

Also in this case, in managing this type of situation, besides utilizing my business experience, I get help from my equestrian practice. When you train a horse to learn and perform a specific exercise, you have to understand the animal deeply. The body structure, the physical attitude, the breed of every specific horse. Based on that, you communicate to the horse your vision. If what you want to teach is a complex exercise, you break the exercise in different parts, and you work on a daily basis to get there. It is about establishing a clear communication, set fair expectations and work overtime. The rider needs to learn about his horse, understand the reaction to the exercise. The horse needs to understand what the rider is asking, how to use the different muscle groups to perform it. Then together, the horse and the rider, must coordinate timing, different part of their bodies, practice over and over, until they get a good execution of the exercise.

To have an understanding, to create a constructive dialogue, and to plan things over time, are the essence of cooperation, and the process I follow when I lead a team.

I always look for the assistance of my people and even that of the customer to help me understand the business. I interact with them deeply. Then I allow myself time to ask more questions, change mind, challenge and get challenged. Only then am I ready, to form my own opinion, draw a plan, and communicate a clear vision and direction. I remind myself to remain open to move in a different direction, if the team comes back proving that something in the strategy needs to be adjusted.

I firmly believe that collaboration and not conflict is the best approach to the success of a business. The world has changed in the past two decades. Technology is bringing speed to the table, free access to data allows people from everywhere to quickly understand and at times predict what is about to happen. The competition is not only what we see today, but is now coming from many start ups that are launched every day in different part of the globe (what I call unexpected competition). In this highly competitive and hostile external environment, a self centric leadership and organization, must be replaced by an ecosystem where all the parts cooperate in a creative and mindful way.

In the next article, I will present the third component of the human centric business ecosystem, the measurement and channeling of the amount of stress within an organization.