Foster and Instill Collaboration

t may surprise you to know that 39 percent of employees do not perceive that their input is appreciated ( So instead, they keep their great ideas to themselves and work in silos. This is despite the trend in organizations to plan teamwork and activities in order to build high performing teams. However, the opposite often occurs. Most of us have had a boss in our professional life who preached teamwork. Some bosses even display slogans such as, “There is no ‘I’ in team,” or “Everyone here is a team player.” But we all know this doesn’t instill collaboration – working together for a successful outcome.

While we agree that teamwork is an integral component of the success of an organization, teamwork is not always collaboration and can be counterproductive. This is the point that Susan Cain pointed out in her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. She discussed the drawbacks of emphasizing teamwork rather than collaboration.

“Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they
enjoy privacy
 and freedom from interruption,” she writes.

She further explained that creative people are introverts by nature, but they are extrovert enough to share their ideas and glean support from others while considering themselves as independent and individualistic.

This is the point where a leader must balance individual needs with the team goals and ask whether it is teamwork or collaboration that is the desired culture? To achieve this purpose, leaders must encourage and facilitate collaboration rather than collectivism. In collectivism, all unite around a single objective, which is acceptable, but different paths to achieve the same objective aren’t considered. The members just divide the project and work on tasks as individuals, then come together to collect the pieces. Collaboration is lost. Contrary to this, collaborators focus on the objective but achieve it by considering different points of view from each member.

The secret of an effective collaboration effort lies within welcoming individual skills, gifts, and perspectives. Everyone on your team must feel free to express their ideas and contribute their thoughts to the project. This instills belonging, ownership and engagement. Now, this also does not mean that everyone always agrees or that every idea must be implemented, only that it is heard and considered.

Here are the five considerations to cultivate a collaborative environment that fosters high performing teams.

Build and Cultivate Trust
Trust is the key element for successful collaboration. The team must trust the leader and the co-workers. Trust is built over time based on actions and proof.

Communicate Company Expectations
Clearly communicate expectations with the team and inform them that collaboration is the acceptable way to work. Clearly identify the roles and responsibilities in the team and every team member must understand their requirement and their position. Every team member in a collaborative environment takes responsibility for good results and they know that they are equally accountable too.

Identify Team Goals
Ensure achievable and measurable goals are set on a regular basis. Keeping the team’s focus on goals will keep individual energies aligned with desired outcomes. Leaders must be willing to reassess goals as needed. Outcomes should be reported on a regular basis, which maintains transparency, focus, and motivation.

Cultivate A Creative Environment
Cultivate the environment that conflicts are normal, expected, welcomed and necessary. The team needs to know how to argue respectfully and brainstorm in a non-judgmental framework. It’s not a personal fight, which hinders progress, but a different perspective to consider. Motivate the team to look at obstacles and think of solutions to overcome them. Leaders must model the behavior that is acceptable.

Explore Complimentary Skills and Assets
Each individual on a team has different personality dynamics, skill sets, and experiences. It is worth making the effort to offer and encourage each member to complete a simple personality profile. Understanding that co-workers have different ways of learning, processing information, making decisions, and communicating ideas leads to understanding and appreciating what each person has to offer as while as the best ways needed to ensure all members are engaged.

Collaboration is necessary for high performance team. The leader does it effectively by enhancing the talents of individual team members and fostering ‘leader-fulness’ of each member. It’s no different than a sports team, appreciating what each member brings, and utilizing each other’s talents while keep the goal in mind – to win or accept defeat with grace knowing they did their best. There may be no “I” in team, but as Michael Jordan (six NBA title holder) often says, “But there is in win!” The key is collaboration – not collectivism.

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