Be it the world of fictions or the world of hard-core business, teamwork paves the way to success everywhere. A collaborative team is probably the best weapon you can have to win against your competitors.
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
Collaboration helps you to create a team-oriented workforce that promotes a great environment to work and ensures your employees’ job satisfaction. However, it is a challenging task to implement a collaborative environment as it calls for a paradigm shift, changing the focus to the success of the team as a whole and not on individual accomplishment.
That being said, collaboration is a teachable skill. All your team needs to do is harness their strengths in order to reach the common organizational goals. After all, it is the strength of individual members of a team working together that makes a company successful. Other organizational characteristics such as unique strategy, innovative approach, creative intelligence, strong leadership, trust, and work culture are also important in defining the success of a company, but collaborative teamwork plays a pivotal role. This applies for businesses of all size and shape.
Your team of highly skilled and experienced professionals should also understand the value of collaboration and clear communication in order to build the trust within the team. This has become even more important in today’s scenario where most organizations emphasize virtual teamwork to bring in highly educated specialists and create a diverse team to manage challenging projects.
A collaborative environment allows team members to communicate freely, understand emotional intelligence, share ideas and knowledge as well as resources, learn from each other, and so on. But more importantly, it helps teams to be flexible.
But the question is: How to build a collaborative team? What should an entrepreneur or manager do to empower their collaborative teams?
Read on for the following 5 tips to strengthen your organization’s ability to perform complex collaborative tasks.
1. Provide Leadership Support
The success of your team’s collaborative effort largely depends on the philosophy of your organization’s top executives and leaders. They need to create supporting social relationships with team members and demonstrate collaborative behavior at every level. Your employees should be able to interact with leaders and colleagues alike, gaining a valuable and meaningful experience. It is, in fact, an arcane fact that flexible, supportive and task- and relationship-oriented leaders are imperative to the most productive teams.
2. Set Ground Rules
It is essential to establish team norms to define how each member would interact with each other and conduct themselves. Establishing ground rules help team members express things that are important to them and learn from each other without disturbing the work culture. In addition, it plays a significant role in the success of a project. Having ground rules in place even before starting a project will provide a context for discussing any issues arising in the future. This will help you avoid frustrating interactions and grievances, arising due to miscommunication or misunderstanding. Clear ground rules also diffuse some of the stress so that your team members can better focus on the end results.
3. Establish Realistic Expectations & Clarify Goals
In a collaborative environment, each team member understands their roles and are accountable for the tasks assigned to them. But for that, you need to set expectations clearly so that your team members are aware of their roles in the bigger picture. This also helps individual members to focus on their tasks and goals. Realistic expectations form the foundation of a successful, efficient and flexible team.
The next task is to clarify the roles each team member would play. For this, you need to:
- Relate each member’s expectations to the overall purpose of the team
- Clarify responsibilities when creating the work plan
- Review roles of each member frequently
- Encourage and allow an individual to learn from other members
- Help each other
4. Organize the Process
It is impossible to build a collaborative environment unless you organize your operations and processes. In addition to providing support and clarifying roles and responsibilities of each team member, you need to provide them a platform to share their ideas and feedback. Your team is a group of strangers until you allow them to participate in decision making and think like a united team.
Include your team members in major decisions related to the projects they are working upon. Allow them to communicate current workflows seamlessly and in real time. While huddles are good enough to serve the purpose if you are working with teams within the organizations, for remote workers and employees working in multiple locations you need to invest in a robust project management tool.
The best option here is to have an agile project management tool that supports Scrum or Kanban methods or both to provide extreme flexibility to organizations. Such tools help businesses create a collaborative environment, keeping everyone (including team members and external collaborators) on the same page.
5. Build Trust
To build a collaborative team you need to first create a work environment based on trust. Trusting each other and trusting the organization is essential to promoting creativity and innovation. Both these factors have certain risks associated with them. Creativity and innovation, in their rawest forms, are nothing but ideas and suggestions. They may sound ridiculous, stupid or even irrelevant in the initial stage. But you need to trust your employees and vice versa to communicate ideas freely and easily. This cannot happen without an environment of trust.
You can never force your team members to participate or share their ideas unless they feel trusted and respected. Worst still, they often fear being ridiculed, which is a killer of innovation and success. Promoting your team’s autonomy, on the other hand, will help individual members discover better ways of achieving their goals. Even if they make mistakes and misjudgement, you really won’t lose much as long as they are ready to learn from those mistakes and inefficiencies.
Truly collaborative teams aim to bridge all the gaps, both individually and collectively. But this doesn’t happen in one day. A collaborative team is the result of years of effort. These five points mentioned here only describes the characteristics of highly collaborative teams, but to implement it successfully each of your team members must be willing to work towards it. They often need to place the team’s success over their individual accomplishment – something which is not very easy to establish. It is however worth the effort.