Reaching the level of successful team collaboration most managers want can sometimes feel impossible. But it’s a goal that drives people more than profits. Great team collaboration also leads to stronger company culture and a more productive workplace.
In teams with multiple backgrounds and personalities, it’s normal to expect differences in opinion and style. But sometimes those factors, along with unclear roles or poorly communicated goals, can hinder collaboration. So you have to proactively map out strategic ways for everyone to work together effectively.
What is team collaboration?
Team collaboration happens when a group of people focuses on and works toward a common goal. The group might be working together directly or cross-communicating with other departments or external partners.
With so many companies opening up to remote or hybrid work, prioritizing effective collaboration is more critical than ever. You need a very intentional mix of tactics, from clear roles and responsibilities to directives on how different things should be communicated and decided.
Regardless of where team members are located, good collaboration is often the secret sauce behind any project’s success.
What does good team collaboration look like?
First, you need to build a solid foundation where multiple communication channels are open for discussion, decisions and questions. Even when you clearly share expectations and plans, it doesn’t mean everyone will understand it in the same way. Make sure everyone has the same definition of what successful team collaboration means for your particular group or project. And adapt for both remote and in-office colleagues. Take stock of individual needs to figure out which of these elements to prioritize to achieve good team collaboration.
1. A shared goal
Without a clear objective, it’s virtually impossible to be productive as a team. It’s a leader’s job to make sure everyone on the team knows what they’re ultimately trying to accomplish as a unit. This helps keep discussions and decisions on track and within scope.
2. Understanding of individual roles
One of the fastest ways to derail collaboration is confusion over personal responsibilities. Each contributor must have a clear understanding of their short- and long-term duties and deliverables. This helps prevent duplicate efforts and missed major tasks.
3. In-person and online dialogue
Create multiple opportunities and channels for communication and promote an open-door policy among contributors, leaders and peers. Giving regular access to decision makers encourages feedback, which builds trust and drives progress. Set up clear channels and guidelines for non-meeting dialogue, both in person or online.
4. Team-minded leaders
Successful managers lead with both their words and their actions. Collaboration works best when it starts at the top with managers who set the tone by outlining clear and reasonable expectations, showing they are open to feedback and participating in the processes and communication channels they set up.
5. Reliable team collaboration software
With hybrid workplaces and global teams on the rise, incorporating tech is a must for effective teamwork. Collaboration tools like Slack let team members freely communicate from anywhere in real time. Even more critically, they create an organized space for nonlinear collaboration. You can organize your teams in channels where they have on-demand access to shared documents, use project-specific apps, launch meetings on the fly and set up customized notifications for more transparent and efficient communication.
6. Team-building opportunities
For any group to work well together, there has to be a certain level of trust and comfort, which can be built with team events, meals and icebreakers. You can also foster relationships with little everyday things. Set up channels for shared interests or memes. Send around fun polls. Host a theme day or have a product-naming contest. These efforts can bring teams closer together and put them in real-world scenarios to get to know one another.
7. Adaptability to new ideas
Kind of like marriage, any good partnership requires listening, flexibility and compromise. True collaboration means being open to suggestions, critiques and ideas from all team members, even if it means changing course. Innovation (and evolution) often stems from considering radically different perspectives. That includes leaders. According to the Center for Creative Leadership, leadership adaptability requires cognitive flexibility, emotional flexibility and dispositional adaptability.
8. Conflict management strategies
Even if you do everything perfectly, problems and differing opinions will come up. The key is being able to resolve these situations and create win-win scenarios through effective conflict management techniques.
9. Transparency at every level
According to research by FinancesOnline, 80% of employees are stressed because of inefficient company communication. Many CEOs and other executives share details with managers and team leaders that never trickle down to everyone else. On the flip side, employees might have great ideas they share with peers but not their leaders.
Collaboration is most effective when leaders are open about their plans and expectations and consistent in their messaging to both in-person and remote teams. The more informed everyone is, the better team collaboration will be.
10. Patience in the process
Building relationships and trust, sharing feedback and communicating well all take time and effort. But they pay off. They’re an upfront investment that help create a solid collaborative foundation that can positively impact the endgame.
Use these tactics for successful team collaboration
Behind most highly successful projects and companies are well-oiled, collaborative teams. But even the best workers need the right tools and strategies to work well together. You can use these 10 tips to improve transparency, flexibility and productivity in any team environment. For more ideas, check out our ultimate guide to collaboration in the workplace.