Your organization doesn’t have to be an ultra-trendy, high-tech, creative powerhouse, in order to find benefits in team collaboration. The demands of the new business marketplace are creating a need for most industries to utilize collaboration in a way that improves results, productivity, and culture. The good thing is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to healthy collaboration, and it can work in many forms. The important thing is that you determine what collaboration means for your organization and understand how you can improve it in your company’s day-to-day operations. Here are 6 ways to enhance team collaboration and make it work for your team and your company’s future.
Collaboration doesn’t have to happen at an office, it doesn’t need to be a scheduled meeting, and sitting around a conference room table doesn’t have to be the only way! When we speak of collaboration, we aren’t just talking about a typical brainstorming session in a conference room. While there is nothing wrong with that, collaboration can happen in a variety of ways, and it will vary with every team. It will require an entirely different toolkit in situations where individuals have been working in silos for a long time or in organizations where trust is low. Skilled facilitation can enable collaboration in any organization, with leaders guiding their people to collaborate, but it doesn’t just happen organically. Leaders need to create an environment that allows for experimentation and trust. Remember that when we are working to improve collaboration at a company, we are looking to enhance all aspects of collaborative communication.
Align with your mission
Give collaboration a boost by reinforcing how your work affects your company’s overall mission and vision. Connecting your team member’s tasks to the why of the company can encourage inspiration, motivation, and allow for your team to clearly visualize how their work contributes to a larger goal. Your mission is the bigger picture that, when absorbed in daily projects and to-do lists, can get lost in the shuffle. What does the work mean and who does it affect? What is the end goal of the project? How will their ideas provide value to something bigger than the company? Collaboration is easier and more effective when your team truly understands the purpose behind their long hours and hard work.
When employees don’t usually interact beyond “Good morning,” and “Have a great weekend,” collaboration is going to be more of a stretch when no one knows each other. Allow your team members to go beneath the surface, whether that includes a social event outside of work, a team-building activity, or another way that will allow them to get to know each other on a more personal level. If there aren’t any opportunities to interact with each other throughout the week or month, it will be harder to sit down and feel comfortable bouncing ideas off of each other. Break the ice, and begin to build relationships and trust within your organization. When team members feel closer to their counterparts, they won’t be as shy or as anxious to share an off-the-wall idea, in fear of others’ reactions. For collaboration to occur, trust is needed, and a key component of trust is the opportunity for team members to understand their counterparts.
Do processes and goals fit into collaborative communication? The answer is sometimes! Certain work may require a more structured form of collaboration with more time to think before coming together to share ideas. An in-depth understanding of each member’s role in the work is helpful so that everyone understands why they are there and what they are expected to contribute. Depending on your group, a structured meeting with a skilled, neutral facilitator, might be more comfortable, with outlined time to share ideas, take notes, and then give feedback. It’s important to note that it might take some experimentation if you are just jumping into a full collaborative mode! Find out what works best for your team by trial and error, and ask for feedback if the situation warrants it.
If collaboration were easy, then every organization would be pros at everything that involves collaboration! If you have a pretty collaborative environment as it is, but things just aren’t working perfectly, take some time to sit back and take inventory, before you go all in and try to make changes. What are the constraints on collaboration for your team? Do they vary between departments and/or individuals? Where are the relationships between teams and team members more challenged? How can your team be more effective with their collaboration skills? Cultivate a sense of curiosity and get to know your team’s collaborative style and where there are relational or systemic challenges. Re-evaluate challenges throughout the year, as adding new members or new projects, may change the collaborative environment.
Make a shift in culture
Bringing people together can sometimes be tough, no matter what the topic is. That’s the beauty of diversity, though, right? While varying opinions, perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds can make for a powerful collaborative session, it is not always easy to get everyone around the same table (literally and metaphorically). Does collaboration fit into your company’s culture? In order for collaboration to be respected and for it to become a natural part of your organization, it might take some changes in your organization’s culture. Analyze your culture and watch how collaboration is currently working between your employees. What do you notice? Is leadership setting the tone for a collaborative culture from the beginning? Do you create space (physical space and space in terms of time) for collaboration, or do you sub-optimize in order to get more done? If you are committed to collaboration, it should be part of your organization’s “DNA,” found in the hiring process, leadership, and daily interactions. Collaboration cannot be a once-a-month session that seems disconnected from who the company really is. For collaboration to work best, it needs to be seamlessly integrated into every part of the organization.
Collaboration isn’t created overnight, and that’s ok! No matter what products or services your business offers, collaboration is a key element that, when done right, can take your company to the next level. Start today with a small change and make collaboration a priority for your employees and an asset for the future success of your organization.