When the BBC covers a major event, it takes a large team of researchers, producers, writers, technicians and camera people to complete the project in a “no retake” environment. In business, highly specialized individuals come together to take a definitive decision and execute it. And they are expected to execute it well.
However, teams are no longer just stacked with experts anymore. The boss is no longer the smartest man in the room either.
There’s flexible working, more diverse work colleagues from different backgrounds and a lot more people on a team than there were a decade ago. A study from Harvard on 15 multinationals found that the average number of team members had increased from 20 to 100 in the last 10 years. And the boss at the top is expected to lead all of those changes.
Collaboration is not a one-man job, it takes an entire committed team.
It’s becoming clear: teams struggle to get anything done in this new environment.
Especially with virtual teams, delays and miscommunications occur which leads to poor decision making.
When the pressure is on, how can teams improve collaboration?
Collaboration works when everyone on a team hones these three skills: care, respect and communication.
Caring creates a psychologically safe space
When every team member feels safe to express and carry themselves authentically, they have the confidence to take part in constructive conflict to reach better outcomes. They also trust their colleagues to not judge them or their work. Judgmental and political environments kill innovation.
It only takes one person to stand up and express a bad idea, for someone else to add to it and turn it into a good one.
Caring is essential to building this environment. When every team member shows genuine interest in those around them and shows empathy and compassion, everyone will increasingly feel part of the team.
In turn, they may want to be more accountable, more trustworthy, take feedback less personally, and show more resilience under pressure. These all lead to better outcomes.
Respect is key for practicing a non-judgment approach
In team meetings or one-to-ones, the mantra in business is “judge the good ideas, not the bad ones.”
It takes one crazy idea (what most would call a bad idea) to create a brilliant one. When everyone feels psychologically safe to express themselves, they will not hold back in meetings. The team can then strategize with multiple ideas rather than one.
Respecting everyone on the team is essential for this collaboration to occur. Group discussions must be promoted on the basis of open and judgement-free communication.
Remember to share knowledge, you might find yourself learning more from others.
Practicing communication is essential to reach objectives
Group discussions can go up in flames if there is no expectation or standard set to meet. When everyone buys into the trustworthy and trustful environment the team is trying to operate in, leaders have to establish the objectives. Without a guiding purpose, conflict can quickly get shut down and once again, nothing gets done.
For example, if a meeting is called to figure out the best allocation of resources between the departments of an organisation and everyone agrees the objective is customer retention. Then the leader will ask the right questions when the marketing and IT specialists start going head-to-head. A decision will be made and strategy will commence.
Strengthening a team’s capacity to collaborate has never been more important as they grow bigger in a more challenging world.