Strengthening Your Collaboration Skills for Success

Convenience Store News' first Future Leaders Learning Lab webinar provided proven techniques to become a great collaborative leader.
Melissa Kress
Co-workers collaborating on a project

NATIONAL REPORT — Many companies in the convenience channel focus on engaging with their customers. However, engagement among employees is just as important. 

When leaders are able to hone their individual collaboration skills, companies can drive better team engagement and achieve stronger results. The ability of leaders to foster and drive collaboration is critically important for an organization, according to Patrick Fitzmaurice, CEO and "head farmer" of the change consultancy Caterpillar Farm Inc.

But what makes a great collaborative leader?  

Convenience Store News' first-ever Future Leaders Learning Lab webinar tackled this question. The quarterly webinar series aims to give participants techniques and tools they can use to take their careers to the next level.

Fitzmaurice explained that a collaborative leader must be in service to three things:

  1. The audience;
  2. The speakers/contributors; and 
  3. The mission. 

"When I facilitate a meeting, I believe that I owe it to every single person in that audience to make them understand why they're there and why they're valuable for what we're there to talk about," he said. 

[Read more: Change Leadership Is Central Thread of 2023 Future Leaders in Convenience Summit]

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Similarly, a good collaborative leader sets the speakers and contributors up to be successful and is responsible for making sure the desired outcome, or mission, of a meeting is achieved. As Fitzmaurice pointed out, the leader "constantly threads the balance between those three stakeholder groups that you own to make this collaboration work."

Borrowing a term from the U.S. Marine Corps, he also said a collaborative leader must have "bearing," which he defined as "creating a favorable impression in carriage, appearance and personal conduct at all times."Whether physically in a room or virtually, one needs to look, act and speak like a leader to establish bearing with their group. 

Additional techniques that great collaborative leaders apply are: 

Right to Left: Start with the end in mind. Be clear of the outcome first and then tell the audience how to get there. "It has absolutely nothing to do with an agenda. It has to do with purpose. It has to do with mission," Fitzmaurice stressed.  

IEEI: This acronym stands for inform, excite, empower and invite. "The purpose of this is to get the group wildly engaged," he explained.

River of Thinking: If you're having a group work on a collaborative project, it's almost guaranteed that they're coming at it from their usual perspective, or their standard river of thinking. "If you want a different collaboration result out of the activity of this group, particularly in a time of change leadership and change collaboration, I would encourage you to really acknowledge when the group is going down a path that sounds like they're stuck in their river of thinking," Fitzmaurice advised. 

Five Whys: Ask the question "why?" five times. "Some kind of magic in the world says that if you keep probing at a topic five times, you actually start getting to root things to solve," he said.

"Each one of these is something you can train yourself on," Fitzmaurice concluded. "I'm not just telling you things; I'm telling you things that you could actually make sure you get better at, or your team can get better at. Each one of these is teachable and it's a skill you can build over time." 

The Future Leaders Learning Lab is a new element of CSNews' Future Leaders in Convenience (FLIC) program. Now in its seventh year, FLIC is designed to help celebrate and develop the next generation of c-store industry leaders. It provides a forum for talented young business people to hone their leadership skills and also recognizes the achievements of a select few rising stars already making significant contributions to the industry. 

The next 30-minute Future Leaders Learning Lab session, "Are You a Good Communicator," will be held June 18 at 2 p.m. ET. Click here to register.  

An on-demand replay of the "How to Be a Collaborative Leader" webinar is available here

About the Author

Melissa Kress

Melissa Kress

Melissa Kress is Executive Editor of Convenience Store News. She joined the brand in 2010. Melissa handles much of CSNews’ hard news coverage, such as mergers and acquisitions and company financial reports, and the technology beat. She is also one of the industry’s leading media experts on the tobacco category.

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