How to Build and Maintain Collaborative Teams

Highly collaborative teams work well together, making the most of each person’s strengths to achieve common business goals. But team collaboration doesn’t just happen. It takes the right people and a strategic approach to running the work team to keep everyone working together. Understanding how to achieve collaboration at work can improve how your company operates.

 

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Benefits of team collaboration with highly collaborative teams

Teams working together benefit the company. Efficient work within collaborative teams can grow your business. Some benefits of team collaboration include:

  • Improved productivity: Teams who collaborate well are highly productive. Each person knows their role and how to complete all parts of the task efficiently.
  • Better outcomes: When team members work well together, their results are often of higher quality. With everyone using their strengths and supporting one another, it’s easier to get the best possible outcome.
  • Efficient problem-solving: A collaborative team knows how to work together to solve problems when they arise. Strong communication and the sharing of ideas for problem-solving helps the team overcome issues.
  • Broad experience: Teams that are put together well have a range of experience, and they know how to use that diverse experience to their advantage. This can encourage more innovative thinking.
  • Higher employee satisfaction: As a part of a collaborative team, your employees feel valued and important. Collaborative teams have a positive culture, which makes work more enjoyable and increases employee satisfaction.
  • Increased employee loyalty: A positive, collaborative team environment can improve employee loyalty. When they feel like a valued part of a team, your employees might be more likely to stay with your company. This keeps productivity high and lowers costs by decreasing turnover.
  • Improved meetings: Team meetings are more efficient and effective for a collaborative team. Strong communication and knowledge of how to work together help the team make the best use of their time during meetings.
  • Appealing to new hires: Having strongly collaborative teams can help you attract new employees who thrive on working as part of a team. It becomes a selling point to a strong candidate who gets excited by the idea of a highly collaborative workplace.

Tips for building and maintaining collaborative teams

Before you can enjoy the benefits of team collaboration at work, you need to build collaborative teams. This is an ongoing process that requires constant work from team members and managers. These tips help you create and maintain the collaborative environment you want.

 

Make the right hires

Hiring a diverse workforce can build a solid foundation for team collaboration. People from different backgrounds and with varying skills can complement one another and give the team all the components it needs for success. If everyone has the same ideas and thought processes, you won’t get many fresh ideas from the group. Create a company culture that not only accepts but also celebrates diversity to encourage a wide range of people to apply.

 

You also need employees who are willing and able to work as part of a collaborative team. Employees should be open-minded and ready to listen to their peers. They should feel confident in sharing their own ideas and debating professionally to come to the best group decisions. Your team members should understand how to communicate well and be able to accept constructive feedback.

 

Create a collaborative culture

The overall corporate culture and smaller team culture impact how well your teams work together. Establish the expectation of collaboration at work from the top. Ensure your leadership teams embrace collaboration and support collaborative efforts. Evaluate your current culture to determine how well it fits the idea of teams working together and identify changes you can make to improve it.

 

Encourage relationship building

Team members work better together when they have a relationship beyond the work. Getting to know one another through workplace icebreakers can help improve communication and develop relationships.

 

You can also build relationships by encouraging teams to bond outside of work. An after-hours happy hour or fun event like mini-golf can help. While it’s ideal to have all team members participate, forcing them can make these extra events seem less appealing. When done well, team-building activities let your employees learn more about one another, which helps them understand how to interact with one another on team projects.

 

Have a shared vision and goal

Establishing a clear vision for the team creates a unified experience and something to work toward together. It gives the team a rallying point, with everyone joining together to accomplish that goal. Understanding how the team works within the larger organizational goals can also motivate the team members to collaborate to help fulfill those purposes.

 

Set clear expectations

Working collaboratively doesn’t always come naturally to all employees. Make your expectations for collaboration clear, and communicate them often. This includes defining specific roles within the team and overall collaboration expectations for the team. By having clear expectations, you reduce confusion and increase the behaviors you want. Invite employees to ask questions if they’re unsure of the expectations or don’t know how to execute certain tasks.

 

Create team metrics

Along with team goals and expectations, it’s important to have metrics to gauge team performance. These metrics should align with the specific goals you have for the team. Using metrics allows you to use data to assess their work toward team goals rather than arbitrary evaluations of how the team works together. For example, you might use time-tracking tools within the team to determine how long different tasks take.

 

Encourage innovative ideas

A collaborative team is better able to reach its full potential when you encourage fresh ideas. Innovation can push the team to come up with new ideas to solve problems creatively. Give your collaborative teams the room to be innovative without micromanaging. Creating a culture of trust makes it easier for team members to share their creative ideas because they know they won’t be mocked or ignored.

 

Capitalize on individual strengths

When you think of teamwork, you often group everyone together as a whole, but looking at the individuals is also important. Every team member brings their own strengths and talents, which should be maximized to get the most out of the team. Including employees with different strengths can give you a balanced team that’s more effective.

 

For instance, one team member might be very creative and good with design. That person can handle the design aspects of the project. Another might excel in communicating with clients, so they become the primary point of contact for the client. Someone else might be perfectly suited to keeping the team organized and on schedule. Learning where each team member excels and assigning them related tasks can help the team work as efficiently as possible.

 

It’s also important to let employees try new things. Other team members might want to take on some design elements or manage client communication, for example. Allowing employees to try new tasks helps them grow and keeps them happy.

 

Define roles clearly

When each person has a clear role within the group, everyone can work more efficiently. This delegation of tasks ensures everything gets done and reduces overlap between team members. It also cuts down on finger-pointing if something doesn’t get completed correctly.

 

Having one person in the team leadership role is especially important. This person helps keep the team on track and the rest of the team members motivated.

 

Prioritize communication

At the heart of every collaborative team is strong communication. If your team isn’t communicating regularly or there’s miscommunication, it’s nearly impossible to work well together. There’s an increased chance of missed deadlines and conflict between team members.

 

Poor communication can also keep team members from speaking up and sharing their ideas. Having everyone contribute makes the team stronger and helps you look at situations from different angles.

 

If communication is an issue, set expectations for the type, frequency and method of communication team members need to use. Send employees to training or do internal training on effective communication. Model strong communication skills from the top. These learning opportunities strengthen the team and help you get more out of your employees.

 

Provide collaboration tools

Having access to collaboration tools makes it easier for your teams to work well together. These tools let the team track all progress and communicate efficiently, even if they’re not in the same room.

 

Some collaboration tools to consider include:

  • Communication: Team communication is crucial for collaboration. Tools with chat and video conferencing make it easier to communicate. Some examples are Slack, Zoom and Skype.
  • Scheduling and project progress: Tracking deadlines, meetings and tasks is easier when you keep everything in one place. Examples include Trello, Google Calendar and Asana.
  • Shared workspaces: When teams work remotely or need to collaborate virtually, tools such as virtual whiteboards or brainstorming aids help. Some options include Miro, Stormboard and Conceptboard.
  • File sharing: Teams often need to share files and other materials when multiple people contribute. Dropbox and Google Drive are two options.

Look at the needs of the team to determine which collaboration tools they need. Get input from your teams on various options. While many software choices are available for different aspects of collaboration, they have slightly different features that might make one more suitable for your team than another.

 

Highlight successful collaboration

Don’t let good team collaboration go unnoticed. Celebrating successful collaboration encourages your employees to continue working that way. It can also set an example for other teams to work toward.

 

Employees want to be recognized for doing their job well. Give your teams positive feedback in the moment when you notice good collaboration. Sharing the praise on a wider scale, such as a company-wide email or at a meeting, gives those involved the recognition they deserve and encourages others to strive for better collaboration.

 

Give teams your support

For strong collaboration, the team needs to know they have the support of upper management. Having that trust in management allows the team to be more creative. If they know all of their ideas will be shot down or won’t receive the support they need to make them happen, they don’t have much incentive to try.

 

Check in with your teams regularly to get their feedback. Ask how they feel the collaboration is going and what could be improved. Find out if they need additional support or tools to make the team more effective. Then, follow up with that feedback to make changes. This shows your teams that you are supportive and want them to succeed.

 

Make changes when necessary

Sometimes a team falls into a good, collaborative rhythm relatively quickly. Other teams need more work or eventually hit a roadblock. Being ready to change how the team works can help you overcome those issues.

 

It’s also important to prepare your teams to adapt as your company changes. A team that’s been together since the beginning might be set in its ways. As your company grows, you take on new projects, and best practices in your industry change, you often need to make alterations to keep up. Adding a new team member also requires changes. Flexible teams with the ability and willingness to adapt can be most successful with collaboration.

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