Together is the operative word when discussing team collaboration. A group of individuals works collectively toward a goal or on a project where everyone contributes to its completion. The work happens seamlessly because everyone is on the same page. The benefits are far-reaching because the employees are engaged. They have skin in the game.
The Gallup State of the Workplace Report estimates that disengaged workers cost employers over $600 billion each year. Team collaboration is the proverbial win-win. It gives the employees what they want and need from their organizations. In return for more productivity and better performance, team members get clear expectations and well-defined goals in a psychologically safe workplace.
Successful team collaboration is often challenging, especially when working with individuals with different communication styles and preferences. The evolution of the hybrid workplace has also impacted team cohesiveness. Communication is also affected as it operates synchronously and asynchronously—simultaneously. The pandemic has only exacerbated these differences.
Team Communication vs. Team Collaboration
It’s essential to differentiate between team communication and team collaboration to understand their perspective functions. The former involves all information sharing. It involves one-way, two-way, or multiple-way conversations. It occurs at four levels:
Downward: Communication between management and its employees
Lateral: Communication between the worker of equal status or between departments
Upward: Communication between individuals and their managers
External: Communication between a company and other individuals or organizations outside of the organization
Team collaboration depends on communication which can also function at all these levels. The difference is that these groups use the shared information to accomplish their goals. It is typically a more robust form of two or multiple-way discussions. Collaboration can’t exist without straightforward and streamlined dialogue. However, it often happens on multiple fronts.
Collaboration uses asynchronous communication with platforms such as project management software. However, its strength and success depends on synchronous communication to avoid misunderstandings and optimal use of every team member’s time and effort. After all, an email can’t replace a one-on-one discussion. Therein lies its primary benefit for avoiding conflicts.
The Process of Cultivating Team Collaboration
It’s essential to understand that team collaboration is a process. It takes time to assess your employees’ strengths and shortcomings to find the best way to leverage your team’s assets. Trust doesn’t happen overnight, either. Considering its importance to successful collaboration, it’s imperative to begin with a plan, which, in turn, depends on a vision or Objectives and Key Results (OKRs).
It decides your team’s direction.
The next step involves setting clear expectations, something that only 60 percent of employees feel exists with their jobs. It behooves management to prioritize this task. After, they are ultimately responsible for ensuring their team members are meeting deadlines and fulfilling deliverables. Involving the employees will help them take ownership of their work and improve engagement.
An open discussion about communication is vital. Ideally, teams will work with a unified platform for documenting the progress of projects and keeping everyone in the loop. It’ll save time, effort, and money in the long run. You should also set expectations for the frequency of communication and its form. The latter will likely involve several types.
For example, emailed summaries of meeting outlines are an excellent way to ensure everyone is prepared for discussions to optimize everyone’s time. Unproductive meetings can cost managers up to four working days a month. Likewise, misunderstandings are better solved with one-on-one conversations instead of texts or emails.
Once everyone has agreed on these fundamental issues, they can begin their first project.
Bear in mind that this process isn’t written in stone. You should actively elicit feedback from your team members with an open-door policy. Setting this bar empowers your employees so that you’ll see with a free exchange of ideas that will fuel creativity and boosts in productivity. Let’s delve into what successful collaboration looks like in real-time.
Best Practices for Team Collaboration
You may recognize many of the best practices for team collaboration in successful leaders. These individuals are self-aware in managing their emotions. They are confident and focused on the team’s goals. They are adaptable and open to learning. Flexibility is also vital, a painful lesson we learned during the pandemic. It may mean rapid changes and the company culture to support sudden moves.
Active listening is probably one of the most desirable traits of successful team collaboration. That means paying attention to what another person is saying while being present in their words and emotions. It’s not about framing your response and parroting their words. Often, people are looking to vent. They don’t want advice or solutions. They just want to talk freely without judgment.
Empathy is more important than ever in the wake of the pandemic. All of us have our struggles. No one was immune to the effects or aftermath of COVID. That makes empathy a critical trait for teams. Not everyone is going to be “on” all the time. That’s where the supportive nature of these groups comes to the forefront. Everyone has each other’s back. Never leave your wing-man.
It’s inevitable that if you bring two or more people together, that conflict will happen. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, either, if it opens up a dialogue. Thoughts are the foundation of ideas. Expressing them sometimes meets with resistance. The successful team collaboration doesn’t silence its members. Instead, it uses conflict resolution to find the truth and determine its merit.
Accountability is imperative for any team. It’s the only way to ensure that the responsibility is shared equally with everyone holding up their end of the bargain. Trust is like a three-legged stool. If anyone fails to pull their weight, it will topple like the strength of the team. It’s equally essential to make sure everyone has their role, employees and leaders alike.
Everyone wants to be appreciated. That’s particularly true with team collaboration. We want to feel accepted. We want others to notice our contributions. That makes recognition of these accomplishments a vital part of its success. It’s a win-win. Those on the receiving end get the motivation to continue to help the group. Those giving it benefit from showing gratitude and can benefit their health and well-being.
Emotionally intelligent leaders embrace all these traits. Their enthusiasm, conviction, and fairness inspire others. They build trust and help to cement the bonds between the team members. However, this soft skill isn’t the provenance of managers alone. It also behooves the individual to improve their emotional intelligence. It will help them improve all of their relationships.
A common issue in many organizations is the tendency to work in silos. Departments may communicate infrequently, let alone know the names of someone who they don’t work with regularly. Many projects require interdepartmental communication. That’s where cross-functional teams step up to the plate. They facilitate the free flow of information to help organizations operate more efficiently.
Their usefulness goes beyond cross functional collaboration. Often, solutions require input from other departments. These teams take working together to the next level to eliminate the silo-mentality and create a cohesive unit. Employees benefit from a greater understanding of their perspective roles in a company. That can, in turn, strengthen morale.
Examples of Successful Team Collaboration
The best companies to work for highlight the characteristics of successful team collaboration and goals for management. Cisco was the top organization in 2022. The fact that 98 percent feel proud to work there, which says a lot about the company. The employees cite management’s integrity, which is a vital factor for building trust. Remember that workers have these expectations for organizations.
The employees of Hilton commend the company on its caring atmosphere. Empathy strengthens the bonds between employees and their employers. It’s worth noting that the top word that they use to describe the organization is team. That tells us that collaboration is a priority that undoubtedly contibrutes to its success.
About 64 percent of the Wegmans Food Markets’ employees have been with the company for over two years. In the wake of the so-called Great Resignation, that figure speaks volumes about its morale and collaborative spirit. It’s certainly a goal that companies aspire to today when faced with challenges filling positions.
People and culture are the most cited words that employees use to describe Salesforce. That’s worth noting since the company facilitates communication asynchronously and asynchronously. It shows that the organization practices what they sell. It’s an excellent business model that benefits them and those that use its services.
Mark Twain wisely observed, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” The goal of any organization should be to be that place. Be the organization that fills its positions and retains them.
Traits of Poorly Implemented Team Collaboration
The essence of team collaboration is shared work. While each member may serve different roles, the workload is similar, using everyone’s strengths to their best advantage. If someone has greater responsibilities than others, it can provoke resentment in that individual. That’s where an open forum can nib these issues in the bud before it erodes the collaborative spirit of the group.
Thoughtful conflict management can even the score.
Everyone on a team has a voice. If someone dominates the conversation, it prevents the free exchange of ideas. That’s especially true with individuals with aggressive communication styles who may become confrontational or demanding if they feel their voices aren’t heard. The problem is usually the opposite scenario, with others feeling their input doesn’t matter.
An emotionally intelligent leader will retain control and help keep the emotions in check.
Another example of poorly implemented team collaboration involves a leader who won’t delegate. They take the team out of teamwork. This situation can deal a lethal blow to a group. Other employees may lose their enthusiasm for their projects, endangering their timely completion. People want to feel needed and appreciated. These actions send a mixed message.
It often requires intervention from upper management.
Recommended Tools for Team Collaboration
The reality of the hybrid workplace or organization with multiple locations is the necessity of online collaboration tools. It serves as a central repository for an organization’s documentation. It’s imperative for companies to implement this type of system, collaboration aside. Estimates put duplicate documentation as high as 30 percent. This situation can:
- Increase an organization’s vulnerability to cyber attacks
- Interfere with a team’s productivity and output
- Cause misunderstandings and conflict
- Cost businesses billions of dollars.
Tools for work collaboration offer other benefits to an organization. It helps both cooperation and a company’s culture when everyone is in the loop. It provides a central hub for employee communication. It also fosters accountability. Too often, problems occur because of a lack of information or knowledge. The best tools to avoid these pitfalls have the following features:
- Reliable service
- Intuitive user interface
- Ease of use
- Frequent updates
- Mobile access
Online options vary in their features, some of which may serve your organization better than others. Luckily, many companies offer free trials so your team can test drive them to see which works best for you. We suggest taking into account everyone’s comfort level with technology. Training is a desirable feature if needed. Some of our favorite collaboration tools include:
- Google Workspace
The success of an organization depends on the strength of its team collaboration. They ensure the workflow proceeds timely. They help a company stay on point with its objectives and goals. However, sound leadership is imperative for day-to-day operations and unexpected events, such as the pandemic. It provides direction when uncertainty prevails and threatens to rock the boat.
The key to better team collaboration is understanding. That begins with self-awareness. It empowers you to be more empathetic and grounded when circumstances threaten to sink the ship. Kutsko Consulting can help you learn more about yourself to manage the people in your charge more effectively in calm and troubled waters. Contact us today about our in-depth assessments.
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