Building a culture of collaboration in your company can improve everything from revenue to employee satisfaction. Frost and Sullivan research found that collaboration positively impacts a company’s performance, productivity, product quality, and customer satisfaction.
In fact, effective teamwork is more important to overall company performance than strategic orientation or market conditions. And while people enjoy working together, productive collaboration doesn’t often spring up spontaneously. You need to help employees build trusting relationships and give them the autonomy to find solutions together.
Here are some tips for getting started.
Collaborate with your team.
Collaboration starts with you. Involve your team in decisions. You don’t have to hold a team meeting for every choice you make, but when you tackle a new problem or project, include other employees in the process.
Use collaboration for learning.
Employees are looking for ways to improve and develop the skills that will help them succeed and make their jobs easier. Ask a more experienced colleague to work with a newer one on a project. Make it clear that it’s a chance for them both to expand their abilities.
Encourage questions, especially “why.”
So many managers get defensive when they hear “why.” But successful teams are constantly asking that question. You need to communicate the drive behind any project or initiative. It helps everyone get on board. It brings everyone together around a common purpose, and it opens avenues for innovations. If your team knows “why” you want to achieve something, they can look for the best possible “how.”
When you ask employees to collaborate, respect their process.
If you task a group with solving a problem, you can give them guidelines or results you want them to achieve, but you have to let them find the solution on their own. They need to lean on each other, not you. And you have to trust their understanding and abilities enough to believe that even if they don’t solve the problem the way you might have, they’ll end up with a viable solution.
Focus on results and evidence.
Collaborative teams have to be able to question and challenge as a way to improve the status quo, but they do not question or challenge each other’s abilities, and they rely on facts, not opinions, for guidance. They experiment with new ideas and observe results, data and evidence to determine the best solution.
Good collaborators are good listeners. You can lead the way by listening to employees and taking their comments seriously.
Acknowledge the process.
When you’re building a culture of collaboration, your team may encounter some initial challenges. So rather than focusing purely on the results of the collaboration, acknowledge and reward the process itself.
Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, advises, found that learners do better if you praise the effort over the results, especially early in the process. If you emphasize the value of teamwork aside from immediate results, employees will have the license to keep working together until they reach their collaborative stride.
Stay with it.
There’s no blue print for creating a collaborative team. Every group of people is different. So don’t just give up. And don’t let employees give up either.
If the process isn’t working, experiment together to find a way. It feels difficult and uncomfortable at first, but avoid the temptation to go back to old ways of doing business. The benefits are worth the effort.
Start small and grow.
Don’t expect your culture to change overnight. You need to let employees adapt. And remember that new approaches take more cognitive energy because everyone is out of their comfort zones. So make collaboration a small part of the workday to begin with and evolve it naturally.
Having a strong collaborative culture at your business makes your life easier. You’ll see performance improve. You’ll have lower turnover, happier customers, and less stress. Corporate cultures resist change, but with your leadership, you can build an unstoppable team.