When Teams Lift and Pull Together
For team workers to collaborate effectively, they must be willing to subordinate their individual egos to the cooperative effort. Management must also be ready to provide cultural and technical support and to lead by example.
Sharing the success
Many employees have already, at some point, experienced compelling results from basic brainstorming sessions or inclusive and honest group discussions. Those interactions only work, of course, when they are skillfully handled and facilitated. Wasting team members’ time with muddled discussions and conflicting objectives only leads to cynicism and resentment. If workloads become unmanageable, employees balk and gripe. By contrast, when teamwork jells, members get it — they see the palpable results of engagement in positivity, trust and accountability.
Labor diversity incorporates skill sets as well as tasks. Collaboration can tap a range of abilities and expertise, allowing groups to pool resources and complement each other’s talents. At the same time, team members learn by sharing insights. Problem-solving should ideally be empowering. There is a particular satisfaction in pulling off an innovative project in coordination. Teams often come up with more interesting solutions than individuals might produce in isolation.
Hitches and glitches
Companies cannot take collaboration for granted; it requires an active commitment to listening, acknowledging others’ contributions and sharing the workload. The most willing managers can foresee roadblocks. From diverse working styles to outright hostility to new methods, they must develop workarounds to squelch sabotage or counteract apathy. These workarounds include:
- Inadequate buy-in from employees who are suspicious of acquiring extra work assignments.
- The wrong communication tools.
- Insufficient autonomy to get projects launched.
- Distributed silos.
- Information overload.
- Too many notifications.
- Friction between forceful personalities.
- Negative mindsets.
- No unified platform for expressing ideas.
- Lack of clear key performance indicators.
Encouraging a collaborative culture
Team leaders have several options for encouraging more collaborative engagement. First, they make sure to set clear goals with specified outcomes. Otherwise, teams may run around in circles, losing precious momentum early on.
You cannot dispense with accountability and recognition. It is only human to expect some appreciation for individual contributions and hard work, however sincerely the ego commits to the group. And trust is an equally essential ingredient. It is a delicate balance to maintain an open discourse while ensuring that even quiet voices can be heard. You want to welcome co-creation, remembering that disagreement can be a positive force.
Boundaries and standards may help to delineate behavior, preventing a lapse into turf wars. One way to keep channels open is to elicit feedback, leaving ample space for group members to express any concerns. You might want to address any of these challenges as soon as possible, even, if necessary, escalating decisions to managers or supervisors. It is paramount that no one is left in the dark.
Specifically, here are a few tips for structuring collaborative groups:
- Keep teams small — too many cooks spoil the broth.
- Meet frequently and regularly.
- Use group email, rather than individual emails, to communicate with team members.
- Integrate your office tools.
- Set up a chat channel for informal interactions.
- Enable side conversations outside the group.
- Keep the team posted, especially if goals change.
- Delegate tasks according to team members’ abilities — use that delegation to celebrate special skills.
On-site versus virtual? Each side has its supporters. One argument for online collaboration is that it may allay the inhibitions of junior team members, building their confidence to speak up in virtual meetings.
Digital discussions also exploit quick communication through instant messaging and are suited to sharing work assets to track progress and keep tabs on deadlines. User-friendly and secure systems offer added convenience to promote collaboration.
All in all, the whole can exceed the sum of its parts. When collaboration flourishes, companies improve productivity, spark innovation and boost fulfillment. Participating team members directly appreciate their group’s higher efficiency and their enhanced relationships with one another.
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