Years ago I worked with a person who often said: “We’re going to collaborate on this. Everyone in favor, hold up their hand.”
Is that really collaboration? Absolutely not! Despite all the hype in businesses about the importance of people and departments collaborating, the majority of them function using competition.
The problem is that competition has its limitations. It doesn’t work well in today’s world of uncertainty, low trust, and dwindling resources. Today, people have to change how they work.
Here’s my definition of the word:
Collaboration is when a shared interest or conflict that cannot be addressed by any single individual is addressed by team members in order to do, create, or invent something better or otherwise considered impossible. Collaboration is really looking at what is best for the organization.
The place to start? With leaders who don’t just support using collaboration but actively encourage it by collaborating themselves.
Leaders, here are 4 tips to effectively collaborate:
Tip 1 – Set Group Expectations. All of us are usually good at setting individual goals; but this is what “the group” (or the team) is going to achieve—not just individuals.
Of course, the word “expectation” can be a mixed bag. When we talk about expectations at work, what we mean is “this is what success looks like.” Collaborating requires defining the meaning of victory, but it has to be defined together instead of just by the boss.
Tip 2 – Define Collaborative Behavior. Once expectations are set in Tip 1, what behavior are you looking for when you talk about collaborating? This word can have many meanings – so how will you and everyone know when they are collaborating?
For example, a good sign that collaboration is happening is that there is a division of labor. Another great sign is positive accountability. That means people are checking each other’s work to ensure quality, and the review is appreciated. But if one person gets all the fun tasks and everyone else resents them, that’s probably not collaborative behavior. Pay attention to what you want when specifying what everyone will do.
Tip 3 – Embrace Team Diversity. I’m not talking about what you usually think when you hear the words “diversity”. I’m talking about embracing personality differences. Are you aware that personality differences can make or break teams? You have to learn to understand and accept one another and what that person brings. Odds are that the guy that drives you and everyone else nuts is the person you need the most.
Once everyone understands and accepts his/her own personality and those of other team members, you can move closer to collaboration.
Tip 4 – Provide Accountability through Feedback. As a leader, you need to observe individual and group behavior. And then you must do something which is incredible difficult: provide good feedback. This helps guide team members through desired changes and help them enjoy the new culture.
But at the same time, leaders need to be open to feedback themselves. You need to be ready to hear from your team and you should be constantly asking “how can I improve?”
Collaboration is the Future
Many changes are happening in the modern workplace such as increased diversity, growing workloads, organization changes, and a global workforce. This is why you must invest time and energy in your team’s culture. While you can’t control external factors, you do have ability to directly influence how your team responds to these factors as you develop a positive team culture and help them enjoy the new culture.
And as more and more businesses realize that silos are creating problems, collaboration is becoming the standard practice. With everything from group projects in school to cross-functional teams at large companies, we are working together more and more to build our dreams.