Six Strategies for Successful Collaboration
“A player who makes a team great is more valuable than a great player. Losing yourself in the group, for the good of the group—that's teamwork”
— John Wooden, legendary UCLA basketball coach.
Working collaboratively is a crucial step in achieving both individual and group success. However, if it were as easy as hanging up an inspirational poster, we’d all be masters of the art.
We’ve found that by following six strategies, our teams work more closely, cohesively, and respectfully. As such, our team members are confident to make bold choices, our teams are strong in their intent, and our managers are able to focus on the big picture and look toward next steps.
1. Establish Team Goals and Individual Expectations
Whether working as a group or independently, employees need to know if they’re measuring up to expectations. As managers it’s imperative to give constructive feedback that fosters growth for both our teams and our team members.
Most companies have a version of objectives and key results (OKRs). These are simple guidelines as to what the business wants to achieve (objective) and what the results of this objective could or should be.
By breaking high-level goals into smaller department-sized bits, managers can then assign smaller, group projects with clear goals and expectations. This allows small groups to identify individual strengths and offer support where needed. As well it encourages individuals to work confidently, knowing that their work contributes directly to the small group, department, and company goals.
2. Respect Individual Approaches
Respecting individual approaches requires a small shift in perspective. Namely, it’s not about how the work gets done, it’s that the work gets done.
Time doesn’t matter anymore. Sure even in the digital workplace we still have to attend Zoom meetings at particular times or file reports by deadlines. But the days of clocking in and out or measuring an employee’s worth by hours worked are going away.
Resist any urge to micromanage. The simple truth is that not everyone works best at the exact same times, in the same environment, or under the same circumstances. By leveraging relationships of trust among our people we build stronger and more efficient teams.
Focus on the goals you have set for your teams and for the groups and individuals within the teams. Focus on the actual outputs. Respect and trust your people. They will return it in kind.
3. Foster Team Cohesion
Work is work. Except it doesn’t always have to be. Part of fostering a cohesive team includes having a little fun.
Most departments have weekly or monthly meetings. Try setting aside time in each meeting to call out employee birthdays, special events, or announcements from the group. Putting time in your meeting agenda for personal recognition lightens the mood and encourages folks to celebrate one another.
Slack is another opportunity to create fun spaces. Build channels around fun topics—we’ve seen employees start channels for pet photos (#petpics), themed memes, book/movie discussions, etc.—where employees can drop in and chat or post as they have time.
Consistently creating spaces and setting aside time for people to let their guard down fosters closer, more caring relationships.
4. Communicate Openly and Frequently
The most vital step to open communication is trust. Trust that the communicator will be heard and not punished, listened to and not prejudged. Be consistent in your open communication, as trust builds over time.
The more open, honest, and transparent leadership is with their teams, the more open, honest, and transparent teams will be with one another. This, in turn, engenders confidence to push, drive, and innovate. To exceed expectations.
It’s important, however, not to get too lost in the work. Set aside time weekly or even daily to check in with your teams and coworkers. This reminder to communicate leads to closer relationships and spontaneous ideation. And sometimes, it’s just nice to say hi.
5. Keep Promises
“Keep every promise you make and only make promises you can keep.” —Anthony Hitt, American Businessman.
If you say you’re going to do something, do it. It really should be that simple. Unfortunately people get caught making promises they just don’t intend to or can’t keep. Begin by being honest with yourself and others. Only make promises you can keep.
Remember that if you commit to something, others are relying on you. To be reliable means you have to come through for them. Every. Time. It also means that if you have resources to help your team you offer them.
In the end keeping promises—to your team, to your family, to yourself—ends in the best possible outcomes for all involved.
6. Recognize and Reward Collaboration
It’s all a roller coaster. Life, business: roller coasters. Series of ups and downs. Why not celebrate the good times?
The answer is that the good times can be easy to miss. When businesses are struggling, there’s too much to do to keep it all afloat. When they’re thriving and growing like weeds, they can’t possibly spare the time. But sometimes in business as in life, you have to slow down. Smell the spring flowers. Celebrate the wins.
When a small group or large team accomplishes a goal, consider all of the parts that went into it—the planning and strategy, the risk evaluation, the execution. People put themselves into it. They supported each other, challenged each other, sacrificed time and effort, all to get here.
It’s important to remind people how amazing they are. To highlight what all the effort, all the collaboration means. Set aside time for a small party or game. Applaud your team.