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How to Facilitate a Culture of Collaboration on Your Team

team collaboration

You recognize it when you see it. You go into a shop or business, and the atmosphere of the place captures your attention. When a team clicks, it’s obvious. You can hear it in people’s voices, the language they use, and the camaraderie between individuals. The culture of collaboration exists and supports everyone who is a part of it.

That’s the hope, but what is the reality?

According to Gallup’s State of the Workplace Report, only 22 percent of employees strongly agree that their organization has a well-defined purpose and direction.

Over half of staff members are not engaged in their jobs.

About 40 percent of workers know what’s expected of them.

These statistics raise red flags about the sustainability of an organization to retain staff and weather economic challenges like the pandemic. Facilitating a culture of collaboration is a necessary component of leading a healthy team.


Defining Collaboration

Merriam-Webster defines collaboration as the ability “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.” It also involves a shared goal that leverages a team’s strengths to achieve it.

The elements that support this objective include:

  • A clear direction
  • Transparent communication
  • Empathy
  • Strong leadership

Interestingly, employees cite these very things most often as what they want from their organization. Ill-defined expectations are one of the top three obstacles to workers’ motivation. However, employees want their leaders to care about the individual as much as the bottom line.

Nearly 90 percent of employees want their employers to care about mental health.

The influence of management cannot be overstated. After all, the purpose and goals of an organization begin at the top, where the solution also lies.

The Goals of Effective and Productive Collaboration

Facilitating a culture of collaboration is to create a positive environment of psychological safety that encourages trust and open communication.

It runs the gamut from forgiving mistakes to supporting each other to avoiding bullying. Employees want to do their best and realize their full potential. However, they need leaders to empower them and, most importantly, to listen.

A culture of collaboration benefits an organization because it eliminates redundancy and encourages productivity. It also engages team members. Because leaders fail to make collaboration their primary goal, organizations lose an upward of $605 billion a year in needless waste of time and unfocused effort.

Consider the alternative. Companies that make team collaboration a priority are five times more likely to be top-performing players in their industry.

Facilitate a Culture of Collaboration

Creating a culture of collaboration involves an openness in leadership to positive and negative feedback from their staff. It’s only by seeing the situation from the employee’s point of view that managers can avoid the curse of knowledge that puts up barriers to effective communication.

Viewing the organization’s culture from a different perspective can lay the groundwork for positive change.

Assessing Your Team’s Health

It’s often said that you can’t know where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been. That adage offers an excellent starting point for evaluating the current status of your organization’s culture. One effective way to assess your team’s health is the Team Health Score survey we created. 

This survey looks at several variables that can impact an organization’s culture of collaboration. Employers may also find it helpful to identify sources of toxic work culture, such as aggression or slacking.

The goal isn’t to point fingers or blame anyone. Instead, it’s a means to develop strategies for improvement. It’s imperative that employees feel free to speak candidly without fear of reprisal. 

It is the single best way to build trust, which is the foundation for a culture of collaboration.

Your assessment should also appraise the current team dynamics. It’s a helpful way to determine how to leverage your team’s skills.

Another component of this initial assessment involves evaluating the current workload of individuals and teams. Shortfalls or missed goals may point more to unrealistic work demands than a failure on the part of the employees. It’s worth noting that poor job fit is one of the leading causes of worker attrition.

Interestingly, workers are doing the same thing and taking stock of their current situations due to the pandemic. Individuals are reassessing their jobs to determine if they add value to their lives. That makes surveying job satisfaction and fit even more timely in the fallout of COVID-19.


Encouraging Empathy in Management

Empathy creates a supportive environment that fosters cooperation. Since empathy is one of the five skills that make up Emotional Intelligence, our EQ assessment provides a baseline for developing plans to encourage it in your workplace. It’s a worthwhile pursuit, given that over 70 percent of employees feel it is a strong driver for motivation.

Business coaching offers an excellent way to help managers become better leaders. Many individuals in management positions often feel isolated. They may not have the same outlets for venting their frustrations as their employees do. Coaching gives managers a welcome opportunity to communicate their needs in a non-threatening situation with unbiased feedback.

It’s also an excellent lesson in empathy.

A culture of collaboration supports creating an environment where this skill comes naturally. Employers can also take the reins by showing they are leaders that care. Simple things, such as being available for one-on-one meetings with employees, can significantly impact the staff’s perception of management’s empathy.

It’s an effective way to lead by doing.

Focusing on Employee Development

While employees want to do their best in their positions, they need the tools and skills to do it. Nearly one-third consider career development significant for their job satisfaction. Leaders have listened, for the most part, investing almost $83 billion in training and nearly $12 billion in business coaching. 

Prioritizing these goals helps employees avoid demand stress.

Having the skills they need, workers are less likely to feel overwhelmed with projects outside of their wheelhouse. They may experience less stress and pressure from meeting deadlines. It also allows them to do their best.

It’s essential to understand that employee development is an individual undertaking. Each person has different goals based on their emotional investment in an organization. The crucial factor is that the employee has input in this process.

Instead of following a manager’s objectives, it becomes a shared vision. That makes it the essence of a culture of collaboration where it starts from the beginning. You can think of it as an opportunity to have a meaningful, candid conversation with an individual. 

After all, it’s one thing to set a goal. It’s another matter to determine if it’s attainable and realistic based on the employee’s knowledge and skill set. This information doesn’t just benefit the employee. It also gives you insights into how to manage your team better. You can learn what a worker expects to help align them with the organization’s objectives.


Investing in Team Building

The pandemic ushered in radical changes to the workplace that left many organizations unprepared for the unintended and unanticipated consequences. It served as a glaring wake-up call that put adaptation on the top of the list. It also illuminated significant knowledge and skill gaps between tech-savvy and non-tech staff. Zoom became a new word in many people’s vocabulary seemingly overnight.

Fortunately, leaders have risen to the challenges of what the workplace will look like in the coming months and years. According to the PwC’s US Remote Work Survey, 72 percent of business leaders plan to invest in virtual collaboration tools. About 70 percent want to fund the IT infrastructure, and 60 percent want management training for their remote workers.

No matter how things end up with the pandemic, it’s a safe bet that the remote workplace is here to stay. However, the effects on the company’s culture remain uncertain. Many employees view the office as the means for effective collaboration. Nevertheless, the investment in virtual team building is still worthwhile.

The other side of the coin involves communication and social challenges. Managers need to learn the employee’s perspective for developing empathy. It’s equally vital for workers to learn these same lessons from each other. That’s where cross-training comes into play. It’s the proverbial win-win for both staff and employers.

The employees learn new skills from a co-worker while creating empathy in the individual for the demands they must meet. Management benefits from the training that staff can provide each other. It builds trust between different departments, which can go a long way toward building a culture of collaboration. 

From knowledge comes understanding.

It’s also an effective way to alleviate social support stress. Building relationships between co-workers creates a more robust company culture. It also improves employee morale and job satisfaction. It makes the workplace fun.

Checking In Frequently

Company culture is a living and breathing thing, determined by the staff you employ. It’s dynamic and ever-changing, like the people who are a part of it. That’s why managers must check in frequently with team members, both as a group and individually. It’s also an opportunity to identify issues before they escalate.

Too often, managers leave these periodic meetings until it’s time for an annual review. It’s an unfair assessment to point out past mistakes when memories aren’t as reliable months later. It’s also a significant source of stress for an employee to have everything riding on one supervisor meeting.

A more effective plan will involve a two-way conversation where psychological safety rules the day. Managers should provide positive and constructive feedback to the individuals. No one wants to hear a laundry list of everything they’ve done wrong for the past year. Instead, the questions you pose to the employee should focus on their work experience. Excellent examples include:

  • What skills or training would help you do your job better?
  • Is your workload realistic?
  • What can the company do to improve your job satisfaction?
  • What do you need from me?

You can ask the same questions to the team. You may find that people are more likely to open up if they can discuss them as a group instead of one-on-one. The vital thing is that you seek their feedback, too. Feedback is a two-way street in a culture of collaboration.

Evaluating the Team’s Progress

The chances are you’ll need to fine-tune your plan and strategies along the way. Matters outside the organization can affect the company culture unexpectedly, as we found out the hard way. Assessing your team’s progress involves measurable goals to be more effective. It’s not enough to say increase sales. It’s more helpful to provide numbers with milestones along the way.

One reason that many people procrastinate is that they feel overwhelmed by a task. The end goal seems too lofty or unreachable. Evaluating your team’s progress along the way allows you and your staff to make the necessary adjustments. After all, the figures you put on paper don’t always play out as expected in real life.

Reassessment is also an opportunity to reinforce what has worked for the team and the company. It’s a vital part of creating a culture of collaboration that can ride the waves of any changes going on outside of the organization. 

The stronger the trust and support, the better your team can stay on point.

Final Thoughts

Cooperation and empathy are the basis for the health of your team and the resilience of your company culture. It creates an atmosphere where everyone looks out for one another and strives to reach common goals. There are no lone wolves or employees merely moving in the same direction. All have a purpose with well-defined expectations and open communication nurturing the process.

As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

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