Five Strategies for Fostering a Collaborative Company Culture

Collaboration Culture

In this day and age, there’s not a single person who’d dare defy the idea that colla­bo­ra­tion leads to better, more inno­va­tive busi­ness. After all, Forbes and Entre­pre­neur have been publi­shing pieces on it for years, and ever­yone – at some point – has witnessed an execu­tive touting how “the next three months will all be about collaboration.”

Unfort­u­na­tely, that’s rarely the case. Despite the coverage and repeat promises, more than half of busi­nesses remain drama­ti­cally siloed and 86% of all fail­ures in busi­ness are still attri­bu­table to a lack of colla­bo­ra­tion. And that’s a real problem.

In fact, McKinsey Global Insti­tute reports that colla­bo­ra­tion failure creates a 20–25% produc­ti­vity suck, which means that between a fifth and a quarter of your marke­ting and sales efforts, your product / service deve­lo­p­ment, your customer rela­ti­onships, your payroll, and your profit are being wasted each year.

But that’s not us, you might think. We’re colla­bo­ra­tive, and we use Slack and Jira and have stan­dups and… And maybe that’s enough. But probably not. Tech won’t solve culture problems, and with an uncol­la­bo­ra­tive culture in place, there’s not a tool in the world that can help.

So rather than thro­wing money at the problem and hoping it goes away (it won’t), consider adop­ting these stra­te­gies for foste­ring a more colla­bo­ra­tive company culture.

Five Strategies for Fostering a Collaborative Company Culture

1. Encourage Your Whole Staff to Network

It seems coun­ter­in­tui­tive to encou­rage your staff to leave the office as a way of brin­ging ever­yone closer toge­ther, but it’s not. In addi­tion to the hidden busi­ness drivers embedded in it, networ­king offers external feed­back vital to your employees and your company.

By brin­ging networ­king into the culture of your busi­ness, you do two things: 1) you empower employees to directly contri­bute to your company’s data quality and lead gen efforts by arming them with busi­ness card scan­ners featuring CRM export and, more importantly 2) you open the doors to testing company ideas on outside audi­ences, crea­ting external feed­back loops that can lead to the disco­very of disrup­tive solu­tions for your business.

A culture of networ­king demons­trates that you’re invested in your employees and their ideas, and that you encou­rage whatever colla­bo­ra­tion helps benefit the business.

2. Create a Reciprocal Relationship Between Sales & Product

Though sales and product only make up small parts of your larger orga­niza­tion, ensu­ring that there’s a consis­tent, reciprocal colla­bo­ra­tion going on between them is one of the most important things you can do to func­tion agilely while crea­ting whole-org alignment. The reason?

The rela­ti­onship between these two depart­ments are where the majo­rity of busi­ness tension rises from. Sales strug­gles because the product doesn’t offer the func­tion­a­lity certain customer sets need to bite while product strug­gles from sales over-promi­sing or promi­sing impos­sible deliverables.

The solu­tion? Get them on the same page. Ensure bi-weekly (or monthly) meetings happen between the head of sales and the head of product. That way, new sales stra­te­gies can be discussed, and product road­maps and time­lines can be arti­cu­lated, clari­fied, or modified.

Collaboration Culture

3. Create a System to Actually Hear Employee Feedback

Your open-door policy isn’t working, and I’ll tell you why. At some point in every one of our careers, we’d had the expe­ri­ence of having a great idea and sharing it with execs only to be met by glazed-over eyes, glances at phones, and a sense that they weren’t listening even a little. Because of this, saying things like “any ques­tions” or “my door’s always open” won’t exactly inspire that stream of great ideas that you’re hoping for.

Instead, create a trans­pa­rent system for revie­wing and respon­ding to feed­back. This can be done through anony­mous surveys, a sugges­tion box, or – if you already have a fairly open rela­ti­onship with your team – through informal meetings.

Just remember: you may not like what you’re hearing, but that’s not the point of this. The employees offe­ring you feed­back are invested in your company and its success, and you not hearing them or refu­sing to engage sends a message about how you – and your busi­ness – sees them.

4. Leverage the Pyramid Model for Strategy-Building

There’s no doubt that, as an exec, you have the expe­ri­ence and know-how to get your busi­ness where it needs to be. That said, to create a truly colla­bo­ra­tive envi­ron­ment for your team, they also have to feel owner­ship for the pieces they contri­bute and the stra­te­gies that they own day-in and day-out. So what do you do? How do you balance your know­ledge with their needs to be a part of your company’s direc­tion? You build a pyramid.

The pyramid model of stra­tegy-buil­ding works like this: you – as an exec – build the highest-level frame­work you can that clearly arti­cu­lates your goals and expec­ta­tions for the busi­ness. You’re the top piece. Then, circu­late the stra­tegy to those a step below you, asking the same of them. They’ll likely provide rough stra­te­gies for the entire func­tion of their departments.

However, once they’re finished (and you’ve approved or tweaked their sugges­tions), the project is passed down to the specia­lists whose stra­te­gies are parti­cu­larly granular, cove­ring the details for being most effec­tive at their parti­cular roles. Once they’re done, you take it back, review it, and offer any feed­back you need to.

The advan­tages are two-fold:

  1. Your high-level stra­tegy is used to guide all work that gets done in your busi­ness. You’ve arti­cu­lated the goals and set the expec­ta­tions, and
  2. Your review of the stra­tegy (and any neces­sary tweaks) don’t become micro­ma­nage­ment. They’re adjus­t­ments based on your experience.

That way, when your team is at work, you know that they’re doing exactly what you need them to while giving them the freedom to own and thrive in their contri­bu­tions to the larger busi­ness goals.

5. Model Collaboration for Your Team

Mode­ling is one of the most powerful educa­tion tools you have at your disposal. With it, you show that you’re more than talk, and that you’re not one of those “do as I say, not as I do” people that no one respects.

What I mean is this: if you want a more colla­bo­ra­tive team, but you’re not willing to own it yourself – lever­aging other opinions for decision-making, parti­ci­pa­ting in colla­bo­ra­tive stra­tegy-buil­ding, faci­li­ta­ting cross depart­ment initia­tives – then you might as well quit. As a leader, you set the tone, set the social atmo­sphere, set what’s accep­table and appro­priate and “stan­dard opera­ting proce­dure” for the envi­ron­ment you’re in. It’s on you to live and breathe (as opposed to enforce) the values you want to see in your office.

About: Manoj Ramnani

Manoj Ramna­niCEO

Manoj Ramnani is the founder and chief execu­tive officer of CIrcle­Back, a smarter way to manage your contacts.

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