At Pacesetter, we do everything we can to encourage our associates to work collaboratively.
As businesses become more globally focused and cross-functional, collaboration among associates is even more critical. A recent Harvard Business Review report even stated that “over the past two decades, the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50% or more.”
But there are evergreen reasons as well. Collaborating energizes and empowers the entire team. Everyone is able to bring in different ideas, strengths, and ways to tackle challenges. With this new skillset, problems will be solved and probably in an even faster manner.
While collaborating in your own area is a great start, teaming up with different departments opens the door for even more possibilities. This helps erase the “us and them” mentality across departments. Once this is in motion, it encourages different areas to share information and cooperate with each other.
How can a company create a collaborative environment?
It starts with the leadership team.
It practically goes without saying, but leading by example is the best place to start. If management demonstrates open communication and creative, collaborative, problem-solving, then associates know that it’s a company expectation, not just lip service.
At Pacesetter, we have really put this into practice. Four weeks ago, I got together with a few of the other managers to go over an open project that we had. We had allotted an hour for this meeting, and about half way through, our conversation had naturally flowed to other areas that we could help each other out on. By the end of the hour we had come up with countless ways that we could improve efficiency and support other areas better. It was supposed to just be that one meeting, but because so much had come out of it, we decided to now meet every month so that we could continue to bounce ideas off of one another. We liked this idea so much that we decided to call ourselves Team 20 as our Pacesetter Way #20 is “Collaborate to Create Win/Win Solutions.”
Make sure the goal, or problem-to-solve, is clear.
Google, for years, has studied team dynamics. Most recently they’ve released results from Project Aristotle which compares high-performing teams to low-performance teams. One key point: clear goals were very important.
If a team doesn’t have a clear goal, how will they work together and accomplish anything?
Make sure associates have the requisite skill sets–and offer training if needed.
Often, associates and teams want to work together, but they can’t quite seem to get the collaborative dynamic in place.
A Harvard Business Review report (from 2007) showed that a number of “soft” skills were crucial to effective collaboration: appreciating others; being able to engage in purposeful conversation; productively and creatively resolving conflicts, and effective program management. The report suggests that training employees in those areas can make an important difference in team performance.
Support a sense of community through company events and office design.
Group events, whether planned like Pacesetter’s annual holiday party, or spontaneous like a team sitting down to lunch together, allow for fun, casual, encounters that foster better personal interactions during the standard work day. If a group of people can agree on pizza toppings and share the result, they are that much closer to negotiating tougher problems.
The design of workspaces–from adding a gym or a library to the office building to encouraging managers to have an “open door” policy–will also let colleagues interact in a more personal way that can help foster good relationships.
In the end, trust is key to collaboration.
Focusing on leading by example, building good communication skills, and supporting a sense of community will create a corporate culture built on trust, which paves the way for great collaborations.