What could you accomplish if your team or company had better collaboration? Consistently great teamwork often improves speed, innovation, efficiency, customer service, and morale. Though most people recognize that collaboration is important, challenges often arise as organizations grow or become more complex. When collaboration and teamwork aren’t working, it often results in:
- Having a great vision, but inconsistent ability to deliver
- Taking longer than expected to launch a new offering or adapt to change
- Customers having inconsistent experiences working with your team or organization
- Hidden risks or untapped opportunities due to people hesitating to speak up
Below is a framework for thinking about how to improve collaboration within your company or team:
1. Goal Alignment. Your company and your people must have aligned goals, priorities, and incentives before anything else can happen (effectively). If your team doesn’t have shared goals, or priorities are misaligned, or incentives aren’t set up in service of the shared goals, no one will have a good time. Involve your team in defining these items to help foster alignment. Sounds straightforward, right? Somehow this often doesn’t come together. Some ideas to promote success include:
- Capture buy-in for strategy and priorities at the executive level. How can you make sure that key leaders agree, commit, and follow through?
- Establish flexibility in compensation and career progression expectations. How can you make sure all individuals are rewarded for advancing the goals of the company or team? What is the correct balance between standardization and flexibility for incentives?
- Consistent and frequent communication from the top about what the goals, priorities, and incentives are. How does your organization communicate about these?
2. Interpersonal Rapport. Think of a team you were on where everyone seemed to click, or otherwise work well together. What were some of the team’s characteristics? I would guess that “trust”, “safety”, “respect”, “alignment”, “balance” might be some words that come to mind. There have been some great books written that outline how to build interpersonal collaboration including crucial conversations, 5 dysfunctions of a team, and others. Some additional ideas are below
- Build balanced teams. Bring people together that will work well with and complement each other at the onset, considering their styles, motivations, and personalities. A team of 5 people where each person is a Type-A results-oriented driver might promote competition above empathy or innovation. A team made up exclusively of strategic visionaries may benefit from tactical help in planning and execution. How can you determine the mix of strategic, tactical, and emotional intelligence skills that your team will need to thrive in your environment? I already know that people will read this and say “Great, Chris…how am I supposed to recruit people that meet the job requirements and ALSO fit so nicely into a balanced team? Don’t you know about the global labor shortage – I’ve had job reqs open for 3 months with almost no candidates”. As your executive coach, I can help you to find a solution that recognizes real-world constraints in your specific environment. Set up time with me to explore how I can help you.
- Model collaborative behavior. This one is 100% within your control right now. Team members are always watching the leader to see what behaviors are encouraged or unacceptable. This includes how you handle conflict, accept new ideas, ask for help / input, and many more. How do you promote trust and safety within your team? What behaviors did your favorite leader model to promote interpersonal collaboration?
3. Enabling Systems institutionalize collaboration into the foundation of your organization. This section is inclusive of the workflows, tools, data, and cadences that are embedded into your operations to help make sure that the right people come together to work on the right topics at the right time. Some systematic considerations for promoting collaboration include:
- Clarify operating processes. People and teams perform best when expectations about how to work with others are clear. RACI / Roles & responsibilities help align individuals about what is expected when working together. Process maps are often used to highlight interactions between hands. Communication plans help to align and manage varying stakeholder groups. How well defined are the handoffs between team members? Between departments?
- Use collaboration tools to their strengths. I won’t say much about this one and have included it for completeness. This includes CRM, meeting facilitation, document management, ticketing, and other workflow tools. To what degree are your collaboration tools serving you? How consistently are they used within the organization? What small changes would drive productive behavior changes?
Conclusion. As industries continue to be disrupted through emerging technological, economic, and social change, building organizations that consistently bring different strengths, knowledge, and skills together toward common goals will continue to be a competitive advantage. This is a complex and critical topic, and each organization has inherent strengths and challenges to consider in improving collaboration.
Does your organization struggle with internal collaboration? Consider reaching out to explore how I can help! Here’s a link to my calendar
About the author
Chris Musano has worked for 18 years helping leaders and teams to succeed through high stakes change. As a consulting executive leader, he has hired and led more than 500 people across 6 countries, run 8-figure P&Ls, and worked with 10+ fortune 500 companies to drive complex change. Chris is a Certified Executive Coach and entrepreneurial investor that has founded 3 startup businesses. He lives in Charlotte NC, USA and helps clients all over the world to build impact, clarity, and influence in reaching their goals. Consider reaching out! Chris@Motion-Spark.com