4 Reasons Why Your Team Sucks at Collaboration

We hate to break it to you, but you’re doing it all wrong.

Collaboration, that is. Being able to work productively as part of a team is one of the most crucial aspects of achieving collaborative success. It’s incredibly important for improving the quality of work, and also for maintaining healthy and productive relationships within your team.

Most teams can accomplish work more quickly and effectively together as compared to people taking on projects, and working in isolation. Collaborative work also keeps employees accountable to each other, which increases motivation and responsibility.

With all this in mind, we really don’t have to stress the importance of healthy collaboration. Here’s why you’re not getting the most out of your teamwork and what needs to change to get back on track.

Goals Over Roles?

Which is more important to promoting collaboration: a clearly defined approach toward achieving the goal, or clearly specified roles for individual team members? The common assumption is that carefully spelling out the approach is essential, while leaving the roles of individuals within the team open and flexible will encourage people to share ideas and contribute in multiple dimensions.

Contrary to popular belief, however, research has shown that the opposite is true: collaboration improves when the roles of individual team members are clearly defined and well understood, as opposed to the approach. When individuals feel their role is bounded in ways that allow them to do a significant portion of their work independently, it creates a feeling of empowerment within the team. Without such clarity, team members are likely to waste energy negotiating roles or protecting turf, rather than focusing on the task at hand.

The research also found that team members are more likely to want to collaborate if the path to achieving the team’s goal is left somewhat ambiguous. Where the approach is not yet well known or predefined, your team can perceive the task as one that requires creativity, resulting in them more likely to invest a higher quality of time and energy.

Implementing Without Introduction

When it comes to adopting a new team-wide system or technology, mistakes can arise in the implementation stages if you’re not careful. While it may seem like common sense, not creating a well-thought out implementation plan is a mistake that can happen repeatedly.

Before you implement any new technology, help team members understand why this change is occurring. Take the time to explain context to your team so that they understand the strategy behind choosing a system that may be unfamiliar to them. Be sure to point out the benefit’s the new technology or system provides over the current implementation.

Furthermore, provide everyone in your team not only with the tools, but the resources required to use new technology correctly. Not everyone on your team might be as tech savvy as you are – a fact you need to recognize. This will ensure a simpler implementation with minimal resistance.

Selective Hearing

All it takes to kill cohesion is wilfully ignoring ideas that don’t precisely fit your agendas. Remember, there are no stupid ideas. Ensure that your team knows that they can’t shut down or shut out suggestions from any one member. Instead, collect all information and debate the best ideas within the team. This way, it acknowledges everyone’s contribution to the effort. After all, if your whole team is not willing to be open to everyone’s ideas, they might as well not even be working together in the first place.

A Little Face Time Goes A Long Way

If your team members don’t talk to each other regularly, chances are trouble lies ahead. Even with the most meticulous documentation, the best way to discover issues and blockers is through face-to-face or visual communication. One of the more common collaboration mistakes companies continue to make is relying on audio-only conferencing when managing remote teams.

By using solely audio, your team is likely misinterpreting communicative efforts due to a lack of non-verbal cues or gestures. While it is easy to fall into a rut of “audio is okay” communication practices, it is not your best option.

According to Forbes, “video is becoming a critical information source for employees.” Clearly, video communication is not only appreciated by your employees but it is also helpful and, moving forward, a necessity. By using video, you can insure that remote communication is almost as good as face-to-face communication.

Collaborating effectively as a team means more time spent completing tasks and a lot less time figuring out what each member should be doing. Got any mistakes you’ve recognized in your own experiences that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

photo credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

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