Team spirit, team collaboration, Esprit de Corps – these are all terms which attempt to define that mysterious, intangible factor which separates an outstanding team from just another group of people. Collaboration is the basis not only for effective business teams, but is a foundation of our entire human society and culture.
Collaboration allows us to get more done, faster and in better ways with constant improvements as new ideas are developed.
The issue for business leaders is how to build a culture of collaboration, so we get the most out of our people, not just employees, but customers and external partners too. We want an appropriate level of sharing of knowledge and ideas, and we should always be open to new suggestions for getting things done faster, cheaper and better, not only for our own businesses but for everyone involved, including customers.
This is not about what software or online collaboration tool you choose to use – this is all about changing behaviors and attitudes.
Trust is part of the glue that holds people together – it implies an ability to rely upon each other, and there is no magic formula for how to establish this. If your team are all in the same physical location, your task is made easier compared to running a virtual team, however the principles are the same.
Allow time for team interaction, and this includes non-productive activities too – taking time to get to know one another, chatting over the water cooler and exchanging what happened over the weekend, allows bonds to be formed between people. Promote this – it is not non-productive, it is the clay that relationships and trust are molded from.
Recognize team members for their individual achievements and performance, and highlight the different skills each member brings to the table. Even the intern has something to bring to the table, even if it is just the right attitude to helping everyone else get their work done – it’s still noteworthy, but do it publically.
Also, you can engender mutual trust and respect by establishing clear deliverables and goals. This puts everyone in your team on the same page, and so individuals can align themselves and their efforts to achieving the same end.
Collaboration is about sharing, and this means everyone must be allowed to voice their ideas and opinions freely, and more than this, to know that they are being listened to. This means everyone in the business and the team must listen effectively – a sales maxim is you have one mouth and two ears – you should use them in that same ratio!
People need not agree with everything they hear, but they should respect that other team members have ideas and opinions too. This part of the creative process, and the only bad idea is the one which never gets heard by the rest of the team because the person who has it feels they cannot come forward with it.
We’ve already touched on being an effective listener, but it is essential you and your team listen well, and not only listen but actually think about what is being said. By opening your ears and your mind, you have an opportunity to either learn something useful, or to see where someone is thinking but taking a wrong turn and they can be helped. There is no downside to listening and thinking about what other people have to say – either way, the business and the team wins.
Jane Wrythe is a business and technology writer who is currently focusing on online collaboration tools, such as Lean BPM pioneer, JobTraQ.