It may seem that gathering a team of highly skilled professionals is what ensures successful and timely project delivery. Well, as much as competence is important, it’s definitely not enough. What’s absolutely necessary is effective team collaboration. As Steve Jobs once said, “great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people”. And if the team has worked out effective collaboration practices, they are bound for success. Now the question is – how to do it?
In every team, no matter if it’s small or big, there are individuals with different personalities, experiences and communication habits. Helping them work together smoothly as a team can be challenging, but it’s definitely worth the effort. It gets even harder if you are managing a remote team as most people complain about loneliness and lack of collaboration when working from home. In order to find out how to improve team collaboration let’s first look into areas that are frequently the cause of collaboration failures.
If collaboration is forced and team members don’t really see the need to collaborate with one another, it’s probably not going to be very effective. If they see they all play a important part and everyone’s contribution is valuable, it’s going to work much better. Another reason might be not enough transparency. Everyone in a team should be aware of what others are doing and what stage the project is in, to be able to work efficiently. If it’s not the case, team members may lose trust for one another and projects may start to get delayed due to poor communication. To ensure transparency, it’s a good idea to organise meetings regularly. However, if you do, make sure they facilitate collaboration rather than hinder it, which might be the case if they’re ineffective – badly structured and with no clear deliverables.
Collaboration also often fails due to competition between team members, which is one of the biggest enemies of collaboration. If people compete with one another, they will not be willing to share information and help their team members, but they’ll rather work ahead of them and try to prove their worth. And last but not least – poor employee engagement, due to which team members won’t have enough motivation and willingness to push things forward and do their best to collaborate effectively.
No, it’s not always obvious. ;)
Collaboration is crucial for effective teamwork and that’s hard to deny. But even though it’s probably obvious for you, it might not be for everyone else in your team. That’s why, you need to make sure you’re all on the same page by making your expectations regarding collaboration clear from the very beginning. Some people may find it easier to work alone but you need to make sure everyone is aware of the progress and all parts of a projects work together just as they should. To do it, define rules for collaboration and make sure communication between team members is regular.
Collaboration is the most effective when team members know they can ask for help if needed and others will share their knowledge and insights. It’s extremely valuable and will spark regular communication between team members, at the same time encouraging them to share progress. As they know they can count on each other, they will be more willing to collaborate and contribute to others’ work progress.
Clear goals are the starting point for any successful team. Without them, work gets chaotic and, in consequence, teams start to lose engagement. That’s why, setting clear goals is something you need to do at the very beginning, to give the team a reason to collaborate and work together towards the goals you’ve set together. It is also important that your employees know what's in it for them if they achieve or even overachieve the goals. As a reward, you can make your own shirt that represents the brand and its team spirit and give it as a gift to each team member.
A crucial part of effective collaboration is regular communication, both between you and the team and among individual team members. To make sure it’s taken care of properly, communicate with your team regularly and encourage all team members to do the same. Work out communication patterns that are suitable for all of you, so as not to interrupt anyone nor slow down the progress. For internal communication, use chat rather than emails and when you organise meetings, make sure they’re relevant and valuable for all attendees. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time, do you?
Every project team will appreciate a well-prepared specification or any kind of project documentation, where they can look for answers to their numerous questions. It’s important that there is one source of truth that everyone can turn to and which is regularly updated whenever something changes. It will help avoid unnecessary delays and… lots of frustrations that arise if it turns out there are different versions of what needed to be done.
In order to promote good collaboration practices, you need to support a sense of community and show your team what they can do to collaborate effectively. It might not be obvious for everyone and that’s why you should always offer your support and mentor your team. It might be by organising dedicated training sessions or providing team members with regular feedback on their collaboration practices and progress. Mentoring your team on topics such as teamwork, emotional intelligence, problem solving and other interpersonal skills will greatly contribute to improved collaboration.
For your team to be able to collaborate effectively, they need an efficient collaboration tool – one that will be tailored to their needs and, ideally, easy to implement and use. Create a digital space which will facilitate task management as well as communication with other team members and define rules and practices that will make it work to your team’s advantage. Once they see how useful it is and how much time it saves, they will certainly appreciate the effort and you will see their collaboration improve!
All those tips might sound obvious and quite easy, but in reality, there are many threats for successful collaboration. If you see some problems in your team, don’t give up. Organize feedback session, talk with employees that have some doubts. Act fast – don’t let bad habits settle.