Collaborating with others effectively isn’t always easy. Some of the greatest leaders from history have come unstuck due to hiccups in communication and teamwork. For many businesses, learning how to collaborate at work means the difference between sinking and swimming—and the stats are shocking: a recent study by Fierce Inc found that a whopping 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or poor communication for workplace failures.
If you want to see your business soar, effective collaboration is vital. But when skill sets, communication styles and personalities clash, how do you even begin to improve this?
In order to help your team and your business glide along a little more harmoniously, we’ve put together a few simple tips to help you form a world-beating collaboration framework…
Steps to more effective collaboration in the workplace
Change your team’s way of thinking
Before you begin implementing new plans on how to collaborate at work, it’s important to introduce your team to the notion that new methods of collaboration are, in fact, needed. Different people on your team will have differing opinions on collaboration; some may have been the unfortunate teenager in high school who was lumped with the lion’s share of the work in group projects, while others may consider team work a chance to shirk responsibility.
Building a positive work environment early on gives you the sturdy foundations needed to begin drawing up plans for your new collaborative approach. This can be done smoothly by ensuring all employees see the benefits of effective collaboration, such as a stronger final product, less stress, shared responsibility, and a more supportive and friendly workplace community.
Nurture an open and inclusive atmosphere
Sitting in a brightly-lit meeting room can set some people on edge; no matter how many good ideas they have swimming around their brains, they prefer to stay silent, safe from any potential ridicule or embarrassment. In order to begin growing a more communicative working atmosphere, your team can’t be afraid to speak their minds.
In order to generate this safe feeling, ensure that your employees are familiar with the tasks one another are working on and the daily blockers and challenges they may encounter. Doing so builds a sense of empathy among your team, and begins to build an atmosphere of understanding and shared responsibility. When each team member reaches a place where they are familiar with the expertise and thought processes of their colleagues, sharing honest thoughts in meetings will be less formidable, and co-operation will improve.
Optimise your meetings
While it’s true that over-doing it in meetings can actually reduce productivity, getting them right can change the way your team functions at its core. Successfully learning how to collaborate at work all depends on how you plan.
- Preparation, preparation, preparation
How many meetings have you sat through that could have been emails? And for that matter, how many emails have you received that could have been resolved over a thirty-second conversation? Keeping a focussed agenda is crucial for effective collaboration. Everybody in the meeting needs to know why they’re there, what they’re expected to contribute, and what the meeting is aimed at achieving. If your team likes to chat, let them do so at the beginning of the meeting to get it out of their systems, rather than allowing it to occur throughout and derail things.
- Make goals transparent
On any given team, different members have differing agendas. Making these clear at the outset means you can empathise with your team and work together to find solutions that tick as many boxes as possible. When each person’s aims are laid out on the table, it becomes much easier to find the common ground between them.
- Listen actively
Active listening is an important skill. It’s the simple act of listening and digesting what’s being said to you without simply waiting for your chance to respond—and it’s tougher than it sounds. Listening and absorbing without working to quickly form a counter-point is conducive to effective collaboration and the healthy sharing of ideas. Engaging in this way shows attention and respect to the speaker, and also encourages the listener to be flexible to new ideas and ways of thinking.
Establish a clear process
It’s all well and good speaking at length about improving communication, but without writing things down and creating concrete processes, people can get confused, or forget. Creating a document that shows workflow channels clearly and concisely gives people a crystal clear idea of what’s expected and what are the options available to them for collaboration.
This will help improve accountability within your team, too. If deadlines are missed or any team member isn’t pulling their weight, this will be glaringly obvious within your workflow. Created a clear chart of cause-and-effect means that everybody knows where they slot into the working process, and the impact of them not acting as they should.
Don’t panic if there are obstacles
If your newly established collaboration process hits a couple of speed bumps, people might start to grumble; there are few who relish such change within the workplace—at least initially. Rather than panic and scrap the whole endeavour, it pays to keep your cool and approach things in a calm manner.
- Chat in private
Holding one-to-one talks with your team members—in person, not via messaging apps—can solve many problems that might otherwise have been drawn out for days. Chatting face to face tends to open people up more, and can lead to speedy, satisfying conclusions for all involved.
- Ensure voices are heard
If one team member feels strongly that a different course of action is taken on a matter, it’s important to let them voice this concern—even if it is, ultimately, overruled. Encourage your team to speak up in this manner, while also placing value on the notion that they should be willing to commit to the final result even if the majority consensus was to go down a different route.
- Consider your professional reputation
Viewing challenges from different angles can make them seem suddenly far less severe. When facing hiccups in your attempt to increase the effectiveness of the communication on your team, it can help to consider your reputation among your peers. Are you the sort of person people look forward to collaborating with? If not, why not? Could you listen more? Asking yourself these questions regularly will help to keep you on the right path.
Using the strategies above, creating an effective plan for how to collaborate at work should be a walk in the park. Above all, remember that communication isn’t just about starting conversations—it’s about creating empathy within your team, as well as an environment in which it’s safe to share ideas. Remember this, and your team will be collaborating better than ever before in no time!