How to Increase Collaboration Between Teams

meetingPower in numbers is the game. Just like the African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” when we pool our experience and skills in business, collaboration becomes exponentially more powerful.

But what if we want to go fast and far? How do we build a workplace culture that fosters collaborative behavior for effective teamwork that gets things done?

Increasing collaboration between workers and departments starts with team communication that brings people toward the same end goal. When we talk about teamwork it’s more than just dealing with the task at hand, it’s about:

  • Supporting each other
  • Communicating effectively
  • Pulling your weight

When everyone has a clearly defined role, a leader to follow, a skill to contribute, and ample resources, this is where the magic happens. As long as the same goals are shared, with a diversified set of specialized skills, the group is able to function and produce their own results.

So how do you encourage a more collaborative environment for teams to flourish? Read on for some successful teamwork and collaboration strategies.

Build Your Teamwork and Collaboration Skills

To build towards having better collaboration skills, the first step is strengthening team building, the cornerstone of which is communication. Communication is the umbrella term referring to the way messages are sent and received. How are others receiving what you’re sending? How are you communicating what needs to get done? This exchange can be the difference between understanding each other or not.

Furthermore, good communication requires the innate (or learned) ability to read and decipher nonverbal cues (noticing what someone isn’t saying, body language, etc.), active listening, improvising (being solution-oriented, etc.) and being quick on your feet in the moment.

A good communicator:

  • Relays his/her message in a way the listener can relate to
  • Provides facts over emotions
  • Disseminates information briefly
  • Invites feedback
  • Asks questions to ensure information lands correctly
  • Takes pauses to listen actively and think instead of reply

Communication translates into collaboration like this:

Communication > Cooperation > Coordination > Teamwork > Collaboration

When communication is on point, team members feel like they are being seen and heard which leads to a greater understanding. When everyone can understand each other, coordinating collaborative efforts helps to complete collaborative tasks, therefore strengthening and nurturing the tendency towards increased teamwork and collaboration skills.

What are collaboration skills?

Forming teams that are willing and dedicated to finding solutions; working with the collective strengths and weaknesses; understanding, rectifying and taking ownership for mistakes; giving credit where credit is due, and actually showing empathy for other team member’s concerns are signs of a great collaboration effort.

Take the following collaboration skills into consideration:

  1. Set Behavioural Expectations Through Demonstration
    If you’re leading the pack, rather than explaining the behavior you want to see, show it. Live out the rules you want to enforce, and hold everyone accountable for their actions – like when it’s necessary to stand your ground, express an idea, rely on others, have a difficult conversation, etc.
  2. Stay On Top Of Team Education
    Ensure everyone has all the information necessary to do their job accurately. What are the parameters of the task at hand? Who is responsible for what? How are team members meant to reach out? What additional skills do they need to acquire in order to shine in their role?
  3. Apply Flexibility To Leadership Roles
    Based on the scope and needs of the project, leadership will fluctuate. A team member who excels in project management will be able to apply his/her skills when discussing the trajectory of the project rather than the team member whose efforts can be put to better use managing the creative direction. Leadership will shift as the project unfolds.
  4. Explore Curiosity
    Practice patience while sharing viewpoints within the group, and while expanding to understand viewpoints outside of the group. When everyone shares their curiosity to learn and share more, overarching themes, needs, data, research and ideas can be connected and applied across the board to enrich a project or a task.
  5. Be A Cheerleader
    Encourage team members. Their success is everyone’s success. Being respectful and dealing with each colleague on a personal level shows you care and inspires others to care too.
  6. “I Don’t Know” Can Be An Appropriate Answer
    After all, you are only human! It’s better to admit you don’t know the solution, rather than make up something on the fly and be wrong. No one expects anyone to have all the answers. Rely on experts who have better insights or say, “I don’t know, let me get back to you.”
  7. Remember Form Follows Function
    Bottlenecks happen most often when there’s a hangup with the process. Identify which structures and processes are inhibiting the results from properly functioning. Could communication be opened up? Can work become streamlined with more face time?
  8. Solve Problems As A Group
    Come together as a group for more sharing and open dialogue where cultural experience, skills, and know-how are all brought to the round table.
  9. Cater To Innovation
    When innovation is the focus, a team that comprises a diverse group of people with a broad knowledge base, experience, and way of thinking, a creative solution becomes easier to see.
  10. It’s Ok To Disagree – Invite It
    Conflicting ideas help to bring in solutions and weed out problems, only if respect and communication are there too. Healthy, productive, and constructive discourse can be very beneficial.

Comprehend the Aim of Team Collaboration

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Collaboration is always a part of every workplace, however, some projects and objectives require more of it.
Evaluate your teamwork skills by considering the following few factors:

  • How much face time is involved?
  • How familiar are coworkers with each other?
  • Are you valuing quantity or quality?

Teams that make the effort towards productive collaboration experience richer results and stronger bonds. So, what’s the point of collaboration, and what are the benefits?

7. More Streamlined Problem-Solving
What do you do when you reach a block? You ask for help, talk to other people, or do research. You’re looking for another perspective. Think about scheduling an online meeting, taking your brainstorming session to the online whiteboard, inviting a panel of thought-leaders, etc., to help break through the problem.

6. Creates Cohesion
Collaboration brings people together to create complex collaborative teams. Rather than working in silos, effective collaboration intensifies when a mixed-skilled team is put together from different departments. Teams or individuals who don’t normally work together are given the opportunity to unite and join forces to create work that might take on an added dimension.

5. Opportunities To Learn From Each Other
Through the sharing of feedback, opinions, skill sets, knowledge and experiences, increased collaboration amongst workers becomes obvious. Learning from colleagues establishes an environment that creates more learning and development.

4. New Pathways To Communicate
Regular open conversation amongst teams truly opens up the channel for deep work. Sharing information means colleagues can do their job better, faster, and with more accuracy. Collaboration software that enables fast communication whether face to face by video or audio improves quality, and increases speed and connection.

3. Increase Employee Retention
When workers feel open and connected to the workplace and workflow, there’s less of a chance they will want to quit in search of work elsewhere. Connection is key and when collaboration is at the forefront of how groups function, employees feel needed, wanted and willing to contribute more.

2. Happier, More Efficient Workers
Workplace failures such as low quality and redundant work, poor briefings and confusion of delegation can be minimized by using team collaboration tools. 86% of employees and executives say that workplace failures become more frequent when there’s a lack of communication or effort put into collaboration.

1. Add A New Layer To Corporate Culture
Generate more trust amongst colleagues and departments when you can say what you mean and mean what you say. When you feel understood, that’s when long-term teamwork solutions really get put into play. Watch as morale increases and team members feel like they want to speak up, share insights, participate, and contribute. Notice how attendance improves too.

 

Constant Communication

group discussionTo keep any working relationship thriving, the rate at which communication is upheld is critical. Keeping the lines of communication constantly accessible reinforces momentum and can make any project, or workflow continue more smoothly. Implement a communications strategy that includes conference calls, video conferencing and online meetings with collaborative software like an online whiteboard, and screen sharing for always-on communication.
Keeping communication constant will:

  • Add Transparency To Business:
    A solid standard of communication internally will naturally spill out and affect how you deal with clients, business development, work output, etc.
  • Create Stronger Relationships:
    Collaborative communication puts you on the same page as your team. Exact information that is shared and seen by everyone makes team members feel closer instead of hearing it second hand. Rather than keeping information hidden or only telling certain team members, full disclosure works to maintain healthier and stronger relationships.
  • Inform Teams Of Changes:
    Project plans, mind maps, presentations, tissue sessions – these are all put in place to open up the conversation around amendments, changes to budget, timelines, client feedback and more. Meetings are a platform for high level employees to distribute information across the board.
  • Encourage A Feedback Loop:
    A safe and open environment where colleagues are comfortable opening up to each other helps discussion flow freely. If there is a block, a challenge or even something to celebrate, establishing a flow that invites feedback provides everyone with critical information that improves work processes or congratulates on processes well done.
  • Bring In More Clients:
    With web conferencing, it’s easy to stay in touch frequently. Staying on top of projects becomes simpler when you can invite and schedule online meetings, have face time, do a presentation and more. Video conferencing softwares bridges the gap between where you are and where you customer is, forging trust and expanding your network.

Being accessible regardless of location, makes your team, clients and potential clients know they can rely on you to get the job done.

Foster Trust

Without trust, how fast and far can you really go? When you’re unsure if your team has the ability to take on a project or you are “playing it safe” too often and not taking risks or expanding on innovative ideas, team performance will suffer. If feelings of doubt underline how your team functions, team members may start to become destructive. Doubt works to break down the team instead of building it.
Instead, fostering a culture of trust and support creates structure for a team to thrive. Understanding collective blind spots, strengths and weaknesses helps individuals know who does what and how the team’s work comes to bring the project to life.

Direction, vision, and strategy that is clearly articulated helps put your team on a path towards success. Here are a few dos and don’ts when it comes to establishing trust within your team:

Don’t set goals that are too high or too low
High goals will make employees feel like you are taking advantage of them, whereas setting goals too low will imply there is no trust. The challenge is to find the sweet spot that makes each individual feel understood. Plus letting team members expand, experiment and fail shows you trust their judgment and encourage their growth.

Do promote accountability
Leading by example means you hold yourself up to the same standards as your employees. Team communication that involves failure and humility proves that no one is perfect, but shows responsibility and ownership. When someone admits their mistake, everyone can work together to get back on track.

Don’t engage in gossip
It’s normal for some “breaking news” to spread like wildfire in an office or close knit setting, but only to a certain degree. Discussing personal information and office politics affects trust. And if it’s spoken by a manager to an employee, that could come across as very unprofessional. Keep gossip out of the loop and workplace if trust is something that’s important to you.

Do focus on being direct and consistent
Communication that isn’t clear wastes time. Being forward with what you’re thinking and not beating around the bush is essential for collaborating. Directness and honesty fosters trust and gets you desired results. Same with consistency. Being moody, and switching gears abruptly doesn’t instill a feeling of stability. Everyone has off days, but communication that doesn’t send mixed signals will help solidify trust.

Don’t micromanage
Fear and control underpin the need to micromanage. Not trusting your team to do their job means you probably don’t trust them and who they are. If you’ve hired and trained your team, why shouldn’t you trust them? Let them do their job without having to oversee every detail.

Going fast and far as a team is easier to do now more than ever before. Tools that connect you to clients and remote workers around the world allow for business to run more smoothly. Let effective communication empower collaboration, and give your team the push to be faster and go farther than ever before.

FreeConference.com provides your business with the two-way communication software and tools it needs to instill more collaboration and trust. With free video conferencing, free conference calling and free screen sharing, you can greatly improve internal and external communication between your team, clients, new hires, and more.