Be a Global Connector

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Be a Global Connector

Being a connector isn't about knowing a lot of people but rather different kinds of people and recognizing ways that they (or their ideas or resources) may link up to the benefit of both sides.

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Take Action

Become a better connector by increasing the variety of people you connect with: Attend conferences outside of your professional specialty; blog or email people about ideas or trends outside of your organization; and make an effort to meet up with competitors, consumers or contacts that aren't directly relevant to your immediate job demands, recommend Ibarra and Hansen.

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Favor a Collaborative Business Style

In our hyper-connected business world, leaders can benefit from trading "consensus" or "command and control" business styles for a more collaborative style.

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Take Action

Examples of a collaborative style include making global connections, rather than focusing on internal connections, and helping to speed decisions to ensure agility, rather than letting them get slowed down or stuck, in an effort to meet a consensus.

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Engage Talent at the Periphery

"Research has consistently shown that diverse teams produce better results, provided they are well-led," states the report. A leader in today's business world needs to be able to bring together groups from various disciplines, generations and cultures.

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Take Action

Don't engage in a common misstep: spending time and money to attract talented people, only to "subject them to homogenizing processes that kill creativity," advise the experts.

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Start at the Top

It's not enough for leaders to spot opportunities for others; they need to "set the tone" for the company by being good collaborators themselves.

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Take Action

Don't let divisiveness among groups be your undoing. The HBR report offers the example of Microsoft, which it says had an iPad precursor on its hands that was ultimately undone "because competing Microsoft divisions conspired to kill the project."

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Beware: Static Groups Breed Insularity

Hansen and Ibarra offer the example of Nokia's former executive team as (ouch) what not to do. All Finns who had worked together for a decade-plus, the homogeneity of the group is pointed to as a possible reason that they failed to see the rise of smartphones—a trend they were too slow to jump on—which has been their undoing.

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Take Action

Research shows that the most successful collaborations include people who haven't worked together before, as well as a mix of experienced workers and new hires.

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Remember: Nationality Isnt the Only Kind of Diversity That Matters

At India's HCL Technologies, CEO Vineet Nayar writes a blog that helps him to reach a broad cross-section of employees. In a competitive market, the ability to reach all types, as HCL has, is credited for contributing to its 30 percent growth between 2008 and 2010.

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Make a Shift Toward Learning Goals vs. Performance Goals

Performance-based goals prompt people to favor tasks that make them look good, says the report, versus learning goals, which make people more open to "exploring opportunities to acquire knowledge from others."

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Take Action

Encourage more innovation through evolving partnerships, rather than relying on short-term performance indicators.

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Show a Strong Hand

Leaders should encourage collaboration but not let it go on endlessly. Effective collaborative leaders know when to end a discussion and make a final call.

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Take Action

Ask yourself, do the right people know how to bring a discussion to a close and make a decision? Also, have you ended any collaboration projects in the last six months? Consider what might be dragging on too long.

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Loosen Control Without Losing It

To get various players to work together effectively, a leader needs to be able to gauge "when to wield influence rather than authority," when to end discussions that have become unproductive and when to "squash politicking."

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Remember the Difference a Difference Can Make CEO Marc Benioff noted that his top management was disconnected from workers who had critical knowledge of customers. He decided to invite the whole company to participate in an executive event, using Chatter. While it got off to an awkward start, it ultimately made for a better event and helped to create a more open and "empowered" corporate culture.

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Take Action

Today's hyper-connected world needs a new playbook: Don't let fears of a misstep prevent you from moving forward.

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