Collaboration is one of those terms that has a lot of potential, but doesn’t always live up to its promise. Some employees just aren’t naturally inclined to team up on a project. All is not lost, however… there are still things you can do to help encourage cooperative work amongst your team. Let’s go over a few reliable methods to nudge your users toward effective collaboration.
Encourage Out-of-Office Socialization
Consider what happens when kids are given the opportunity to work on a group project. They immediately bolt to their friends, safely within their comfort zone. Your employees aren’t going to behave much differently than these children: they’ll gravitate to the coworkers they’ve gotten to know, and chances are pretty good that they’ll only spend time with these “classmates” outside of “school hours.”
In order to stoke the kind of trust and familiarity that lends itself to collaboration, promote social, non-professional time to be spent outside the office–or create some yourself by holding a company picnic over the weekend and forbidding shop talk. While not all of your employees may be cut out to be best of buds, the better they know each other, the better they can work together.
Work to Their Strengths
Okay, so you have a project that you need a few employees to team up on. Who do you assign? Keep in mind that this project needs to be done right and done quickly as well.
Well, let’s say that you have the option of joining up three of your employees to work on this project. Regardless of their individual work ethic, you’ll encounter some problems if none of your team members are proficient with their assigned task. Diversifying the group can be a very effective way to encourage your employees to balance their abilities against those of their teammates to get the most done.
Make Your Expectations Clear
Make sure your team is informed about the kind of performance and outcomes you are expecting to see–especially from any collaborative work–and certain milestones you want your team to meet along the way. By setting definitive goals, you tell your employees what they need to do next, making it easier for them to determine how to do it, and whom to do it with.
Reward the Team
This is an easy one. Did one of your production teams come through in a pinch and deliver? Did another department manage to sign a big deal? Make sure that any group efforts see some group recognition when things go well. Take the A-Team, for example… did Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith ever brag about his ideas being what saved the day in the end? No. Hannibal acknowledged that the efforts of the entire team were necessary for the plan to work: “I love it when a plan comes together!”
Be more like Hannibal. Make sure your team sees that you appreciate their value.
Lead by Example
Of course, as you’re telling your team to work together more effectively, you can’t hide away in your office all the time and shun human connection. You need to keep your door open and be receptive to your team, as well. Business collaboration (when done right) involves everyone, at all levels. Taking the steps to encourage it yourself will show your employees that you are serious about teamwork.
Use Technology that Makes Collaboration Easier!
The willingness to collaborate can easily wither away if the proper tools aren’t available, or if the process is overly complicated and/or time consuming. This challenge may have once prevented most collaborative efforts in the past, but that just isn’t the case anymore. Fortunately, most business technology available these days offers at least some collaborative aspect to it. This is largely thanks to the Internet–perhaps the most famous collaboration solution of them all. Any technology that makes it so convenient to effectively pool one’s resources is going to inherently promote such behaviors, and so you should make sure your workspace has this technology deployed.
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