Getting a diverse group of individuals to join forces and cooperate as a team can be a real challenge. If your crew members would rather sail solo than share the effort, you may need a little help to inspire them to work together.
Collaboration is inherent to the definition of a team, but all too often it doesn’t happen as well as it should. When that’s the case, the results can lead to frustration, decreased productivity and a hit to the company’s bottom line. Collaboration is no accident, and it’s up to you to lead the charge.
Here are 5 tactics you can use to inspire collaboration on your team.
1. Build a Culture of Acceptance
Creating a safe environment is an essential first step. When team members know that questions are welcome and new ideas are valued, they’ll be more apt to open up and share. Many people with quiet personalities have excellent ideas to contribute, but they may lack the confidence to say them out loud. Be especially aware of this dynamic if your company hasn’t established a welcoming tone. If team members attend other company meetings and see that new ideas are routinely cut down, they may fear you’ll do the same.
2. Establish Goals and Set Limits
Goal setting is essential if you want your team to efficiently work together to achieve optimal results. Identifying measurable goals and creating specific timelines will help your team to better understand what’s expected of them. It will also encourage a sense of accomplishment and pride within your team. As the leader, it’s your responsibility to help everyone zero in on the group’s purpose as soon as possible.
The same can be said about setting limits. Spell out what’s acceptable and what’s not within your own department. While it’s good for people to express themselves, make sure the communication remains professional. Don’t allow personal issues or drama to invade the group’s space and throw everyone off track.
3. Get Involved and Inspire
You’re the leader, not a spectator. It’s up to you to inspire your team by getting involved. Besides, as the leader, you’re ultimately responsible for the success of the group’s efforts. It benefits your credibility within the company to make sure projects are getting done.
Though it may seem the quickest route to results, autocracy isn’t the ticket to inspiring collaboration. Be a coach and a peer—inspire others by showing how highly you value each of them, regardless of title or credentials. It’s an example they’ll follow as they relate to each other too.
4. Share and Learn
Using an open communication style can also help inspire your team. Talk to them about your own career path and the knowledge you’ve gained along the way. As appropriate, let your team in on what’s been difficult for you and what you’ve learned as a result. By doing so, you can help break the ice and encourage others to open up and share.
Make it clear that each person has valuable insights to contribute, and emphasize how much you can all learn from one another. This will help everyone to feel a sense of belonging. Instead of holding back and staying silent, they’ll be more likely to share ideas. With better communication in place, projects will run more smoothly and conflict will be resolved more quickly.
5. Have Lunch
Another simple but effective tactic is to order a pizza, sit in a room together and share a meal as a team. To increase collaboration and clear communication, it helps to meet face to face in a relaxed environment where team members are more likely to give each other their full attention. Though email and instant messaging may seem efficient, these tools can further isolate members of your team from one another. It’s important to regularly meet in person as a team, especially for brainstorming sessions or other activities that benefit from direct communication.
Inspiring collaboration on your team takes creativity and a little work. In today’s efficiency-focused business environment, true collaboration can be difficult to achieve. But without it, your chances for optimal outcomes diminish, along with your reputation as a leader. By making the effort to inspire that collaborative spark within your department, everyone wins, and soon the whole company will be clamoring for a spot on your team.
Joshua John is the digital strategist for MBA@UNC, the online executive MBA program from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Joshua is an avid blogger and his passion lies at the intersection of business and digital media.
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