Collaboration with your team is an important tool for any manager because it increases productivity and helps overcome communication challenges. If you are interested in raising your team's productivity levels, consider developing a collaborative environment. In this article, we discuss what collaboration is, what the benefits of collaboration are and nine ways to collaborate with your team.
What is collaboration?
Collaboration is when groups of people combine their time, ideas and resources to work together and create a single outcome. In business, teams will collaborate to come up with new strategies, products or procedures. They can work together in person or virtually. Sometimes, collaboration can also describe the incorporation of technology or other mediums into a team's work process.
Collaboration can be as simple as two people talking about their ideas to get a fresh perspective. It can also be as complex as multiple teams working on a single outcome by passing off each stage of the project from one team to another. Companies can collaborate with other companies or individuals to create products that cross industries and markets.
Why is collaboration with your team important?
Collaboration is a popular tool in business because of the following benefits:
Higher employee participation
A collaborative environment can encourage employees to engage more with their work in order to support the team. Knowing that other employees are relying on them can create a sense of duty towards their work that they may not incur by working individually. It also encourages preparation by each team member so that they have something to offer during collaboration.
Increased sense of responsibility
When you encourage your team to be involved in decision-making as a group, it can give each member of the team an investment in the decision. A sense of personal responsibility can inspire employees to produce an outcome that they can be proud of.
Having an array of people communicating about and working on completing a project can ensure the team avoids any negative impacts on the project. Collaboration can create a system of checks and balances that can eliminate the potential for an unsatisfactory product or outcome.
7 ways to collaborate with your team
Here are some tips to collaborating with your team that can make your collaboration more effective:
1. Establish a common goal
When people come together from different roles, it's helpful to establish a common goal between all parties. Understanding what they are working towards can help focus a team, so that they can use their time effectively and reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings.
Once you establish a common goal, the team can direct the conversation and workflow toward idea creation or problem-solving. The common goal can work as a guideline throughout the collaboration process to make sure that everyone remains on task.
2. Set up a workflow
Collaboration requires many people to interact at one time, and you can simplify this process, keep your team focused and efficient and prevent misunderstandings by incorporating a workflow for your team members. Workflows help employees clearly understand their deadlines and other team's deadlines that might affect their part of a project. It can also provide employees with information about other aspects of the project, encouraging curiosity and an opportunity for growth.
3. Identify strengths
As a leader of a collaborative team, consider getting to know your team members and identifying their individual strengths. This can help structure collaborative efforts so that people are in roles where they can perform to the best of their abilities. If a team member seems to be strong in one area, make sure the team recognizes that strength, appreciates it and uses it to the benefit of the entire project.
For example, during a sales strategy meeting, if one member of your team is strong in customer relations, your team can look to that member for ideas about reviewing the phone prompts for customer service.
A powerful team has a variety of strengths with a diversity of team members. Using these strengths can improve team performance by exposing team members to new skills and opportunities to learn from their teammates. It can also encourage individual development to turn strengths into applicable skills.
4. Be an example
Being the leader of a team requires setting an example of collaboration because team members will react to the environment that you create. You can use your role as manager or team leader to exhibit being open to new suggestions. You can also provide a supportive attitude to team members who are debuting a new skill, or contributing a new idea, and therefore expanding the team's skill set. As the leader of a team environment, consider how you can foster the attitude towards the team that you want to see from them.
Read more: What Is a Collaborative Leader?
5. Consider incorporating technology
Technology can be a great tool to help organize and foster collaboration, especially for teams that are primarily digital and need help extending into a physical space. Here are some examples of technology that you can use to help foster a creative environment:
Email is the most common digital messaging service, but there are many types of messaging services you can use, like automation and instant messaging, that can eliminate lag time and keep communication organized between teams that are in one location or multiple.
Videoconferencing technology can give team members in different locations a chance to build relationships while creating a sense of urgency and a desire to prepare. Video conferencing can also be a great way to record meetings for future reference.
Digital calendars can help manage the timelines of multiple team members on one project. They can also be a great way to keep updated information about deadlines in one place that is easily accessible by the entire team.
Read more: How To Effectively Organize Your Calendar
Workflow management software
Workflow management software, or WMS, is software that keeps your project's path towards completion in a visual database that your team can access.
6. Encourage honesty
A collaborative environment thrives on being open-minded and honest. To build a collaborative environment, it's important that your team feels they can be honest about their time constraints and their abilities. This way, you can incorporate those challenges into your plan for the project and allow your team to contribute where they can.
For example, if a team member has to push back a deadline, it is important that they both understand the effect on the rest of the team, and to inform others of this change. Once your team is honest about their challenges, they can rely on the strengths of their team members to help them problem-solve. Your team may also be less likely to make adjustments if they feel encouraged to be honest about setting expectations when establishing the timeline at the beginning of the project.
Encouraging an honest and open atmosphere can also encourage new ideas by helping team members build confidence and feel supported to share.
7. Look at your company culture
Consider how your company culture might affect your team's ability to collaborate effectively. How employees feel about their team members and their workloads can affect morale, and in turn, your team's productivity.
Hiring the right people is the first step to encouraging a collaborative environment. If your team members are diverse, respectful and trust each other, they can build collaborative relationships with each other that make them feel supported. They can benefit from the variety of skills and experience that each member brings to the team.
If the work environment is positive in other ways beyond collaboration, it can inspire team members to be more dedicated to the work. For example, if they are happy with their workload and benefits and feel that their work environment is overall positive, team members may be more likely to be open with their ideas and interested in the work that they bring to the team.