From a group of people → to a team. Collaboration and how to encourage it.

Every great team is good at collaborating. But collaboration doesn’t happen by default.

When people don’t trust each other enough, when they don’t feel comfortable having sometimes-difficult conversations, when they work in silos, focus on their own results and protect their ‘patch’, then collaboration can’t thrive.

So how do we, as leaders, push against that, and build a culture of collaboration if it’s not already there?

Here’s a few things you can do:

Build Self-Awareness.

Self-awareness, in my opinion, is key to collaboration. Once we understand our go-to communication styles and working preferences, we are more inclined to collaborate, and do it better.

The problem is that we often feel self-aware enough, and we sometimes resist seeking further. It’s the others that need to be more self-aware, we’ve done the work. But have we?

So it’s no wonder that sometimes people resist it. But I have never seen someone not enlightened by finding out their results of a self-assessment tool and learning something new about themselves. Even the cynical have to come around, and admit that there were things they didn’t realise about themselves. Or if they did, that they didn’t know how to make that work for them.

So, how can you increase the level of self-awareness in your team? And in yourself, of course – never waste an opportunity.

Focus on the Big Picture.

As leaders, it’s important we communicate our big vision, our goals and measures, and then bring the team on board, so they understand their part in this big picture. This is so important in fostering a sense of purpose and collective responsibility. With a clear understanding of the big picture and their role in it, the team can identify opportunities for collaboration and leverage each other’s strengths and skills (see self-awareness above). Collaboration becomes a natural response to complex challenges when your team recognises the value of pooling resources and knowledge to drive innovation and problem-solving.

How can you ensure everyone is on the same page and on board with the big picture?

Encourage cross-team working.

Wherever possible set up tasks that require team members to work together to achieve outcomes. Bring together individuals from different functions to work towards a common objective, leveraging their particular skills or knowledge and promoting interdependence. Acknowledge any challenges and talk with team members to see how they think these could be resolved.

How can you encourage cross-working in your team? What projects require pooling of knowledge?

A collaborative culture doesn’t happen overnight, but initiatives like these are great stepping stones towards it.

What has worked for you in encouraging collaboration in your team over the long or short term?

Juliet Robinson
Leadership and Change Specialist

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