Four Ways Leaders Can Foster Cooperation


The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.

–Theodore Roosevelt

Charles Osgood told the story of two ladies who lived in a convalescent center. Each had suffered an incapacitating stroke. Margaret’s stroke left her left side restricted, while Ruth’s stroke damaged her right side. Both of these ladies were accomplished pianists but had given up hope of ever playing again. The director of the center sat them down at a piano and encouraged them to play solo pieces together. They did, and a beautiful friendship developed.

We all know that cooperation is important. That much is certain. But if you are a leader on a diverse team of individuals how do you reconcile such diversity of opinion, egos, and DISC placements in a way that inspires collaboration and cooperation rather than a brawl in the break room?

Here are four approaches that may help.

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Embrace the tension
Some leaders prefer to shy away from the tension and madness that makes up their organizational culture; I say embrace it. Within those diverse opinions and ideas is a wealth of creativity, when collated and organized, can be a game changer for you. Corralling your team and tapping into their collective creativity can be a leadership challenge but if you can pull it off it can pay huge dividends.
Challenge assumptions
One thing you have to be mindful of as a leader is not falling into the mindset that you must always “keep the peace” or not “rock the boat”. I think once in a while it’s a good thing. I am not advocating disrupting your organization simply for the sake of creating chaos, but I am advocating confronting status quo thinking head on. Disrupt your way of thinking and disrupt it in your people so that no idea, option, or way of looking at things is ever business as usual and predictable.
Build bridges
Within your organization you have left brain people and right brain people. You have the visionaries that see things before the rest of the team and you have the builders who make it a reality. You have the strong-willed, the analytical, the outgoing, and the humble. You are all over the DISC map. Good! Building a culture of cooperation begins when you acknowledge, embrace, and seat everyone at the table. If your organization is going to grow and succeed you need all of these people with you. It was General George Patton who wisely said, “If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.”
Create engagement
Successful engagement and cooperation within your organization occur when you bring your team together – not when you keep them apart. It happens when you put the visionary and the builder together to see the big picture. It occurs when you put the right brain and left brain people together so they see they are not each other’s competition but their completer.[/message][su_spacer]

Lest you think I am looking at this through rose-colored glasses, let me be clear – this will not be easy. It will be hard work and a leadership challenge. People will have to check their ego’s at the door and come prepared to learn.

But before cooperation can take place you must name the elephant in the room and embrace the tension that exists that is a result of different personalities on your team. You must challenge your assumptions and traditional ways of thinking. Cooperation is not forcing everyone to conform to your way of thinking. It starts with an open mind, respect, and by embracing other points of view.

Building a culture of cooperation can be the difference-maker for your organization. As a leader it is up to you to foster the environment.


Doug Dickerson
Doug Dickerson
DOUG has been speaking to audiences in the U.S. and overseas for more than 30 years. Doug knows how to spin a story, make you laugh, and how to challenge your traditional ways of thinking about leadership. Most of all, Doug is committed to helping you grow as a leader. Doug is a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida and studied Clinical Pastoral Education at Palmetto Baptist Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina. While his leadership expertise has its roots in ministry and teaching. His background also includes public relations and business. Doug understands the necessity of leadership development and why creating a leadership culture in your organization is critical to your success. He is the author of four leadership books including: Leaders Without Borders, 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders, Great Leaders Wanted, It Only Takes a Minute: Daily Inspiration for Leaders on the Move, and Leadership by the Numbers. As a speaker, Doug delivers practical and applicable leadership insights with a dose of humor and authenticity that endears him to a wide range of audiences. Doug is a John Maxwell Team member.

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