We hear so much about the importance of team collaboration in the workplace these days that it’s practically a cliché.
I won’t blame you if you’re thinking, “Uggh, this is going to be the most boring post ever. Let me guess, you’re going to say it’s all about communication.”
Well, guess what?
You’re right. It is all about communication. But what I’m about to communicate to you may not be what you’ve heard before, so bear with me, pretend we’re in a team together, and read at least down to Tip #5.
Oh, go on… deal?
(See how getting your team to collaborate is often easier said than done?)
Here are seven of the best ways to achieve better team collaboration in the workplace and avoid the pesky little personality conflicts that can pop up when many great minds have multiple ideas at once.
Oh, and I’ve crowdsourced these tips from different thought leaders from all around the internet – how collaborative is that?
1. Create a supportive environment
You have to assume that the CEO of Chanty, a team productivity software tool, knows a thing or two about creating an atmosphere where people feel at ease interacting with each other. The man himself, Nick Kamyshan, has the following advice to share:
It goes without saying that the success of team collaboration largely depends on the support from managers and company executives. Be sure to create a supportive environment for collaboration and build a collaborative culture at every company level.
Team members should not be afraid to speak out and interact with both colleagues and managers. It is impossible to force your team members into collaboration. Effective collaboration can’t happen unless employees trust the company and feel trusted. Always remember that a supportive relationship defines the future success of your team collaboration.
In other words, consider teamwork to be a grassroots effort that everyone is involved in – not just those on the lower rungs of the office ladder!
2. Make sure everyone’s voice is being heard
This tip goes nicely with Tip #1. Sandi Givens, a team strategist and digital marketing expert, says that in order to get each team member to contribute towards a shared goal, it’s important to ensure every individual is well-represented.
One challenge in collaborative work environments is the potential to have the brunt of work fall on only a few individuals. One way to circumvent this in your organization is to avoid silencing team members when they speak. Because some individuals are naturally shy or introverted, they may discount their ideas before they share them.
You heard what Sandi said – at least, I hope you did! If you were silencing her by skipping past her advice, go back and read it again.
3. Define what being a team player means
This is, quite surprisingly, not often something that happens. Max Yoder, the co-founder and CEO of team learning software platform Lessonly says that sometimes people don’t perform to expectations because they simply don’t know what’s expected of them. He believes that if people know what your expectations are from them as a team player, they are more likely to make an effort to be one.
Companies expect employees to do great work, but they don’t always do their part as a company to document what great work looks like. We talk about being a team player a lot, but how many companies document what being a team player means? Like, what are the fundamentals of a team player? You might think a team player is one thing, I might think it’s another thing.
When asked how he personally defines a good team player, Max listed three key attributes:
Hunger, humility and being people-smart. If you have all three things, then you tend to be a very effective team player.
4. Have a clear-cut vision
Yep, along with good communication skills, having a clear-cut vision is crucial to getting large groups of people to work towards a goal together. Lolly Daskal, an executive leadership coach and the founder/CEO of Lead From Within, believes that every team has its strengths and challenges – but the best teams are the ones that are united in a team vision.
Top-performing teams clearly identify the role and expectations of each member based on their talents and skills. Research shows that collaboration improves when the roles of individuals are clearly defined and understood. Top-performing teams have a clearly defined strategy, plan and goals. The strategy provides a map that shows where the team is going… and planning and goals tell members how they’ll get there.
Along this same line of thought, good team players should always make the effort to acknowledge everyone in their team, both directly and indirectly.
5. Look, listen and observe to find gaps
Sometimes, it’s what people don’t say or what they avoid articulating in front of a board room that matters most. Jessica Dewell, a keynote speaker, trainer and strategist, says that by reading between the lines, listening to what’s not being said and observing from the back seat, managers can more effectively evaluate the potential of each team member in a workplace. She posits that in order for a team to get its relationships, interactions and task execution right, managers must look individually at effort, talent and strategy.
The strengths and weaknesses of each person in your team will tell you where there are gaps in skills and what the realities are with regards to reaching departmental goals.
The ability to assess an individual’s work output provides useful information. Watching people also uncovers when they are at their highest energy and when they are the most focused, which is key to finding the rhythm of the team.
So, as with every other type of relationship, team relationships involve a fair bit of emotional intelligence, not to mention commitment. A good team constantly evaluates its current practices and strives to get better at them.
6. Set priorities right from the beginning
Simon Dowling, a collaborative leadership and team dynamics expert, suggests that in order for your team to stay on the same page with respect to every activity, you need to set their priorities straight right from the beginning. When everything is a priority, nothing is a priority, and that makes team collaboration difficult.
Next time you or your team are identifying key actions for a period of time – whether it’s for a project, a week, the next 90 days or a full year – set up three categories: A (top priority), B (next in line) and C (next in line again).
Now allocate every action as either A, B or C. It seems simple, but the debate this can provoke in a team is often pretty telling. And if you don’t have the debate now, it’s one that will play out on a daily basis for the next 90 days. Or even worse, at the end of the period when nothing’s been done properly and people are tearing their hair out because they can’t get the cooperation they need from others.
It’s good advice. Giving people the opportunity to identify where their priorities lie also gives them the opportunity to interact freely.
7. Create an atmosphere of transparency and accountability
Transparency and accountability across teams are critical to discovering how a lack of collaboration impacts your company’s productivity and revenue. Teams need a clear way to see – in real time – who is working on what, where they are in the process and how they are adhering to deadlines.
Transparency helps managers evaluate workloads, assign tasks and drive projects toward completion. A leader may even find that goals are being met sooner when teams are on the same page. At the same time, transparency fosters a culture of accountability among team members.
You heard the man. Be as transparent as possible, without getting nude.
A good team is not easy to find, but it is important to build. Help people in your team get to know each other by creating more opportunities for employees to get to know each other, such as group lunches and social gatherings. Include every person in your team in as many large decisions as possible. Create a means of communicating current workflows to avoid duplication of effort.
Heck, you can even initiate daily team huddles where each team member shares what they will be working on that day if you think that will make your workplace collaborate better (and achieve more).
Teamwork is personal by nature, so experiment to find what flies in your workplace.
In the spirit of sharing, divulge what tips you have used to get your team (or teams!) to collaborate better in the comments below.