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Effective Collaboration and Leadership Are Vital TD Capabilities


Wed Mar 04 2020

Effective Collaboration and Leadership Are Vital TD Capabilities

Collaboration and leadership have been earmarked in the new Talent Development Capability Model as critical capabilities that must be a part of all talent development professionals’ toolkits, now and in the future.

While distinct, collaboration and leadership require effective communication, skillful management, and the ability to align individuals’ work to an organization’s strategic goals.


Collaboration and leadership are grouped as one capability under the model’s first domain, Developing Personal Capabilities. The model defines the knowledge, skills, and abilities talent development professionals need now and in the future as the global workforce undergoes significant change with far-reaching effects.

“Collaborative skills focus on getting work done while working across boundaries, whereas leadership skills are broader and include setting a vision and motivating and inspiring others to achieve outcomes,” says Timothy Tobin, vice president of Franchisee Onboarding and Learning and author of Peak Leadership Fitness: Elevating Your Leadership Game (ATD Press). “Although collaboration and leadership capabilities can exist without one another, when they are combined, they are an exponentially more powerful way to achieve goals and reinforce a culture of learning and performance.”

Collaboration is about building and managing professional relationships. Being good at collaboration means being able to foster environments that encourage positive, productive teamwork, particularly across work functions. Promoting cross-functional success is one reason why collaboration is a critical capability for talent development professionals, who are typically working with employees across an entire organization.

According to ATD’s Capability Model, collaboration involves:

  • having an awareness and understanding of group dynamics, which is based on active listening skills

  • exhibiting collaborative qualities like showing respect, valuing others’ skills, and acknowledging others’ feelings, opinions, and ideas

  • understanding how to motivate others, such as through thanking employees and others for a job well done, ensuring people have the chance to do the work they do best, providing timely and specific feedback, and being open and transparent

  • recognizing and rewarding collaborative behavior

  • recognizing “collaborative overload”—when employees are spending too much time in collaborative activities such as meetings and phone calls and not enough time working independently

  • establishing “rules of engagement” as a team

  • building team trust

  • aligning diverse perspectives and achieving buy-in for a project or initiative

  • managing conflict.

Collaboration is an everyday skill that is a part of myriad workplace examples, including designing and leading team-building efforts, says Tobin. A team-building event could be held before a new project begins or in the wake of significant changes at an organization. Talent development professionals could use this opportunity to gather input from the team to determine what is working well and what needs improvement and to collectively define priorities. This can be a powerful approach to establishing buy-in and engagement from a team, particularly in times of change.


While it uses collaborative skills as a foundation, leadership is essentially about getting others to understand and believe in an organization’s vision and working with others toward a common goal.

Talent development professionals, regardless of where they are in their careers, will need these leadership skills to succeed:

  • knowledge of management functions like finance, accounting, marketing, systems, procedures, organizational structure, and supervision of employees

  • an effective approach to problem-solving (the ATD Capability Model identifies a seven-step process for making decisions and solving problems)

  • knowledge of how to improve processes

  • the ability to clarify and articulate change

  • coaching employees to improve their performance and prepare them for future roles

  • delegating work tasks and assignments

  • providing feedback.

One example of applying the leadership capability in the workplace is establishing feedback mechanisms that allow feedback to flow regularly from employees to management. A talent development professional could challenge his or her team to identify and bring forward barriers to getting key aspects of their work done, suggests Tobin. This could, in turn, lead to improvement on other leadership skills, such as improving processes and solving problems.

“One of the most important questions leaders can ask their employees is ‘what do you think?’” explains Tobin. “Employees across all levels typically have unique insights into challenges and solutions based upon their day-to-day experience on the job.”

Finding ways to tap into these insights and take away valuable ideas for improving performance is at the core of both leadership and collaboration, as they are defined in the new Capability Model.


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