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Foster a Collaboration Culture in the Workplace

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It’s not uncommon, in our modern, ultra-competitive world, to feel as though office politics are taking over your life. 

If everyone in your office is looking out for number one, second-guessing your decisions and over-analyzing everything in case it puts them at a disadvantage, it’s hard to get much of anything done.

If your team is working against rather than with each other, you’re not getting the best out of them, and your business will suffer for it.

The solution is to foster a collaborative culture among your employees, but that is sometimes easier said than done. If everyone is already behaving like they’re on Game of Thrones, you might need some help to get to where you need to be. Here are our top tips to take your team from adversaries to allies.

Choose Smaller Teams

The old saying “too many cooks spoil the broth” rings true here, as does “too many chiefs, too few Indians.” If your teams are too big, and there are too many people in them who either are or think they should be managers, it’s going to be hard for them to get anything done.

Team collaboration works best when teams are smaller because communication is easier, a consensus is more likely, and there won’t be too many leaders pulling in different directions. It’s also a good idea to limit the team leaders you assign to each group. One person at the top and everyone else working together as peers is the ideal structure to keep everyone focused on the task, rather than worrying about who gets the glory.

Assign Management Sponsors

Managers don’t necessarily have to be involved in every team effort in your company, but there should be at least one who has the high-level brief for every project, and who is invested in driving its success.

Even when team collaboration works well, things can still fall apart if there is no one capable or willing to implement and approve the process and the results. So, make sure someone with enough power to do both has some involvement in the development of your team’s effective collaboration.

Be a Good Example

It’s very hard to foster a collaborative culture when you’re locked in a battle with your own team. If your employees see that you’re a lone wolf or a loose cannon, they’ll feel that it’s okay to be the same. If they see you working with your own team to reach common goals, they’ll follow suit.

Be careful which managers and leaders you favor too. If you put your faith in the wrong people, and your employees know that they’re the wrong people, it can breed resentment and apathy.

Good Old-Fashioned Team Building

There’s a reason why companies host weekend getaways and outward-bound adventures for their employees. Spending time together outside of the office, particularly when they are working towards a common goal, is a great way to get your employees warmed up to collaboration at work.

Recent studies have found that team building increases engagement, can improve project results and can have a marked impact on profitability.

Encourage Generosity

If your team feels as though they have to fight for every scrap they get, then they’re not going to be too willing to give anything away, whether it’s information, time, or anything else. Collaboration does not happen in adversarial workplaces.

Make a point of singling out employees who support and encourage their peers, and who offer assistance without expecting anything in return. If your team knows that you appreciate it when they assist others in the office, you’ll make it that much easier for them to foster collaboration by building trust and facilitating relationships.

The Right Mix of Skills

Getting the best out of any team requires the team to include the right mix of skills and strengths. Teams that are missing crucial elements will never be able to deliver top results, and they may even feel that it’s not worth trying.

If your team is lacking in a specific area, and you don’t have the budget to hire full time, consider outsourcing or hiring a freelancer to fill the void. Online collaboration makes it easier than ever for teams to spread around the world to work together seamlessly and efficiently.

Hiring the right expert for a particular project and teaming them up with the best people in your office is the best, fastest way to get things done in smaller companies.

Choose Leaders Carefully

Perhaps the most important step in getting the best out of teams is to choose the right leaders. Good team leaders are technically competent, involved, and great at building relationships. They’re fair, and they work as hard as everyone else.

If your team leaders are more about barking orders and taking credit than they are about rolling up their sleeves and working together to get the job done, then you’ll never get the collaborative culture you want.

If the people who make up your team all agree that there’s something a little off with the leader they’re reporting to, it’s a good idea to dig a little deeper. Companies need good employees, but good employees need to trust their managers.

A Mix of Old and New

The best teams are made up of a good mix of people, including some that have worked together in the past, some that have been around for some time, and some new members with fresh ideas, who can bring a new perspective and innovative ideas to the table.

Whether you choose to create teams from seasoned employees and new hires, or just combine employees, freelancers and outsourced experts in new ways, you might find that changing your teams from time to time delivers surprisingly pleasant results.

Use Technology

There’s an old saying about meetings: they’re a great way to waste time. While that’s not entirely true of all meetings, it’s definitely in everyone’s best interests to avoid too many lengthy meetings about a project.

Project management tools, online document storage systems, electronic calendars and scheduling tools and many other technologies can make it easier for teams to collaborate, whether they’re sharing an office or on the other side of the world. Many tools are available free or at low monthly rates, so they’re easy for businesses of all sizes to afford, and most don’t require special project management skills to set up and use.

Collaboration Yields Results

Putting together the right team, ensuring that project leaders are offering the right example and making sure that everyone gets along can feel a bit like herding cats if you’ve never really tried to make it happen.

But when it does happen, the results will speak for themselves.

Teams that are working together well are more efficient, more creative, and more focused on the task at hand. They can get more done with fewer resources, and they are happy to put in extra time when deadlines are approaching.

When teams are mismatched and unbalanced, when they don’t have clear leadership, or when they’re not sure exactly what the desired result of their collaborative efforts will be, they get less done, and it can lead to a toxic environment in your office.

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