Team collaboration is a common characteristic of all high-performing organizations. Where there is meaningful collaboration, there are fewer workplace conflicts, there is high productivity & efficiency, and employees are loyal to their employers.
But then, poor communication skills, unnecessary competition, poor employee engagement, and other challenges stand in the way of effective team collaboration. How, then, can you overcome these and other challenges and optimize collaboration in your team?
These 12 crucial team collaboration strategies will come in handy:
- Communicate clearly
- Be clear about roles and responsibilities
- Foster mutual trust between all team members
- Promote inclusivity
- Invest in meaningful team building
- Create clear boundaries between work and play
- Adopt the “No Agenda, No Meeting” policy
- Lead from the front
- Have plans for the inevitable
- Invest in collaborative tools
- Provide a good support structure
- Build your team around individual employees’ strengths
Poor communication is a major cause of misunderstandings, conflicts, and many problems that hinder team collaboration. Besides, it is almost impossible to solve any problems in a team without apt communication skills.
- Have regular team meetings
- Be impartial when solving conflicts
- Be very open about goals and expectations
- Create simple channels where team members can relay their grievances and opinions.
Be clear about roles and responsibilities
When team members aren’t clear on the roles they play in the team and what their daily responsibilities are, unwanted confusion and conflicts arise. On the flip side, when everyone is clear on their roles and responsibilities, it is easier for team members to be accountable both to themselves and their colleagues.
- Publish each team member’s job description on the staff portal.
- Create a team flow chart and hang it on a wall for everyone to see.
Foster mutual trust between all team members
Trust breeds honesty, psychological safety, meaningful friendships, and mutual respect among team members. As a consequence, the team members feel responsible for each other’s career success, hence the motivation to pull together as a group.
- Encourage team leaders to train their juniors and help them excel professionally
- Train employees on soft interpersonal skills such as empathy, loyalty, and kindness.
- Lead by example with regards to honesty and transparency.
There is a lot of hate going on in the world right now. This hate is anchored on the things that divide us as people, notably religion, gender, race, age, classism, sexuality, and political opinions. Team collaboration will always be an illusion unless you proactively break down these barriers.
- Ensure equal pay and benefits for everyone regardless of gender
- Train team members to be welcoming to everyone
- Make your offices accessible to all regardless of age or disability
- Assess individuals based on their performance and not who they are
- Train yourself and the team to identify and address their unconscious biases
Invest in meaningful team building
Team-building activities present an opportunity for team members to know each other outside of their usual professional context. Members are able to bond a lot better, be vulnerable with each other, and build strong peer relationships. However, you must be careful not to create awkward, off-putting, and counterproductive team-building activities.
- Build employee engagement into the organization’s culture
- Don’t force people to participate in team building
- Ask for feedback after every team outing and be sure to act on that feedback
- Encourage simple but consistent team activities such as eating together, playing both indoor and outdoor games, retrospective sessions, and volunteer work.
Create clear boundaries between work and play
People sometimes get carried away by office discussions and politics when they work together in open workspaces or shared offices. That hurts productivity, which then necessitates radical changes, e.g. putting up walls and creating cubicles. Shoving workers into small, enclosed cubicles doesn’t solve much- the move actually affects team members’ ability to collaborate. The best solution is to create clear boundaries between work and play.
- Create a break room where employees go for social/casual conversations
- Create a kitchen area where employees go to snack and probably gossip
- Create an office gym where employees go to burn off some steam.
- Create a conference room where employees hold team meetings.
The idea here is to designate the office space for serious work only.
Adopt the “No Agenda, No Meeting” policy
This stems from the need to create clear boundaries between serious business and trivial stuff. When bosses build a culture of “agenda-less” meetings, team members develop a culture of getting distracted in meetings, poor attendance, far-fetched disagreements, and off-topic talking. Ensuring that all meetings, formal or informal, have an agenda trains team members to value and respect group meetings. Meetings, therefore, become more productive, boosting collaboration in the process.
- Always set a clear agenda for your meetings
- Carefully select the members to invite to a meeting
- Train team members to collect their thoughts and ideas before any meeting
- Normalize follow-up meetings to resolve any post-meeting issues.
Lead from the front
As their leader, team members should see you as a highly resourceful person. You cannot know everything, of course, but you need to have workable ideas and suggestions whenever your team calls upon your leadership. You need to employ agile methodologies to complex problems, be creative & innovative, and be adaptive & flexible if you’re to lead a highly collaborative team.
Best practice: Invest in your own growth both as a professional and as a leader. A PMP Certification Training Course would be a great place to start, where you will learn everything there is to know about modern project management.
Have plans for the inevitable
Conflict and criticism are inevitable in a team. Cases of dishonesty and perceived betrayal will arise every now and then. These are issues that erode team collaboration. You need to have clear plans on how to address these issues when they arise.
- Designate mediators for teams
- Train yourself to handle tough conversations
- Train yourself and the team on emotional intelligence
Invest in collaborative tools
Make collaboration a lot more fun and effective using collaborative tech tools such as Slack. Invest in employee management software for effective performance tracking. And if you’re low on cash, you can encourage collaboration through WhatsApp groups.
- Name your Slack channels and WhatsApp groups with clear intention. Be very clear about what the group/channel is about
- Keep separate projects organized and contextual
- Set clear KPIs on your employee management software
- Be very honest and transparent when tracking and analyzing employee performance
- Encourage employees to track their own performance
Provide a good support structure
Employees need to feel supported to become the best versions of themselves. Senior employees need to feel supported to train their juniors and at the same time grow their own careers. In the end, what you get is supportive and collaborative workplace culture.
- Send senior employees to leadership workshops
- Incentivize members to pursue extra courses, both short and long-term courses
- Give team members the freedom to test out new concepts or lead others
- Ensure everyone knows who to reach out to with questions
- Create a team of personally motivated individuals through rewards and career growth opportunities.
Build your team around individual employees’ strengths
Many employers love to highlight and focus on their team members’ weaknesses. Train yourself to be different. Understand that your employees are all too familiar with their weaknesses. They are constantly beating themselves up about those weaknesses, so they don’t exactly need you to make them feel worse about who they are. You will promote successful collaboration by focusing more on the distinct strengths that individuals bring to the team.
- Have your team members take a personality test. That will give you clarity on the strengths that each one of them possesses.
- Share the personality test results with the rest of the team and encourage members to utilize each other’s strengths.
Team collaboration should be the culture of any organization seeking to gain a competitive edge in its industry. Our hope is that you’ll succeed in integrating our 12 strategies into your organizational culture.