Teams are formed to accomplish a shared purpose and their success will depend on familiarity with each other’s work style, experience on prior teams, and their clarity of purpose and performance is hampered if team members don’t work well together.
The Oxford Dictionary of English defines collaboration as “an action of working with someone to produce something” – a collaborative environment is vital for team success.
Harnessing the potential of individuals as a team can be helped along with a few simple building blocks:
- Formulate or review the team’s purpose
- Allow each team member to express commitment
- Use the common purpose to prioritise team actions
High performing team members are co-operative rather than competitive and support one another in working towards the common goal. It’s pretty much what defines a team – a group of people working together toward a common goal.
Communication and trust
Building an environment of trust and empowering collaboration depends on good communication and trust. Where team members can communicate freely, sharing knowledge and skills, learning from each other and sharing resources they are more likely to establish strong collaboration. A high performing team combines high-frequency communication with openness and a willingness to tackle differences.
Trust is also essential as if employees don’t feel trusted and respected, they may not participate or share ideas. All employees should feel comfortable in contributing their ideas, an inclusive approach boosts ideas pool.
A team needs support to discover the best ways of accomplishing goals and a level of autonomy to question and brainstorm and to learn from their mistakes and inefficiencies. Collaboration doesn’t necessarily mean lack of conflict, on the contrary, learning how to address challenges makes a team stronger and more cohesive.
Collaborative teams work successfully when members pick up on each others’ feelings, share their concerns and have the skill to challenge inappropriate behaviour and give honest feedback.
Support and feedback
A team is only going to work as well as you let it and can be derailed through micromanagement or failure to provide feedback. One way to kickstart creative teams to make team member recruitment a team activity, allow staff to choose who they want to work with – it shows confidence in their overall abilities. Then position each team member for success by allocating tasks that play to their respective strengths and areas of expertise – leveraging people’s strengths can be incredibly empowering and should inspire improved productivity.
It’s also important that team members understand their roles and responsibilities and, from time to time, the team leader should review team roles, taking a personal approach with each team member to support and motivate them. Encourage team members to take on responsibility and support them in meeting challenges and overcoming barriers.
Don’t forget to recognise and reward success by reflecting on what has been accomplished and call out team members for their contribution.
Checklist for the collaborative team:
- Set realistic expectations with sensible timescales
- Seek commitment to the objectives
- Set out ground rules for the team – expected behaviours and standards
- Treat all team member’s ideas as valuable – they all play their part so don’t play favourites
- Facilitate active listening and knowledge sharing within the team
- Let team members have ownership of their projects with autonomy and empowerment to make decisions
- Build trust and support the team’s sense of purpose
Try to encourage an environment where all team members feel valued and empowered as this helps team members own their work, taking responsibility for their results and accountability for their actions. Expect and encourage creativity, innovation, and different viewpoints from all team members, a really clever idea can come from the most junior team member.
Good collaboration is vital for the overall success of a team, enabling increased productivity and effective use of resources.