13 Essential and Effective Tips for Team Collaboration Improvements
Team collaboration is a process during which employees work together as a team on a project. Working as a team involves bringing employees together who do not usually get along together; therefore, it is a difficult feat for any business to achieve.
Since team collaboration deals with human nature, the process can be performed in multiple ways. The challenge is to get team members to know one another better, increase communication between employees and departments, and encourage team members to depend on each other for success. Team collaboration can easily floor (if done wrong) or lift (if done right) the success ratio and performance of the project in hand.
According to a study conducted by Forbes, firms that encourage team collaboration to give five times more than those that do not who do not consider it important. Through collaboration, firms can benefit from making the most out of employees who work in different departments.
Therefore, we have listed a few tips to improve team collaboration below.
Assign a Visionary Leader
The success of team collaboration depends greatly on the leader. If the leader is unable to communicate effectively, identify strengths and weaknesses of team members, convey goals and tasks, and keep the team together, no matter how talented the employees are, a project will not be as successful.
A visionary leader is responsible for making members of the team comfortable with one another and their assigned duties and tasks, realise the importance of the project and clearly state its goals. The leader sets and manages the standards and deadlines for the tasks.
A leader should also be able to observe and monitor team members and effectively resolve any conflicts between them.
If they do not understand the leader’s vision of the project, team members might find it difficult to commit and stay motivated, which would make it difficult to collaborate with employees from other departments. So, give your team a common goal and a holistic view of the project.
You must also encourage information sharing built around shared objectives. This can be achieved if you conduct an initial cross-departmental meeting at the beginning of the project; during this meeting, the leadership team should set the vision and discuss it in detail with other members.
When team members are guided by a single vision and understand how their contributions fit into the wider context, they are motivated to take initiatives.
Keep Individuals Organised
The best way to improve team collaboration is to designate every team member a role as per their expertise. After conducting a few exercises and thinking sessions, you will recognise team members’ strengths and weaknesses. Based on your observations, you can then delegate duties to them.
Assigning team members to roles for a project avoids confusion, as everyone is aware of their responsibilities. Additionally, if something goes wrong, you will immediately know who is responsible for it.
If departments do not indulge in effective communication, they cannot share ideas, ask for feedback, or brainstorm solutions. Communication does not guarantee that members of the team agree but it allows them to present their differences and settle on a sound solution. So, how can you enable effective communication?
Be clear: You must set a tone for communication within the team. You can establish rules regarding how often the whole team should meet, and whether it is fine to contact someone after office hours. This way, everyone would be in agreement.
Listen: Communication is more about listening than speaking. You must listen to your fellow colleagues and ponder over their ideas before offering your own input and solutions.
Method: Decide how you want your team to communicate – emails, chat boxes, face-to-face meetings, virtual meetings, phone calls, etc.
If there is mutual understanding amongst departments, the collaboration between them is smoother and more effective. You can ask team members to “walk in each other’s shoes” for a day to better understand the challenges faced by other departments.
Alternatively, you can help employees understand the challenges and constraints faced by other departments. This way, they will not only learn about each other’s work but also generate ideas about how one department team can help another.
This way, team members are able to keep their personal emotions in check so they can relate to their colleagues in a productive and positive manner.
Conduct Team Building Exercises
Another way to improve team collaboration is to conduct regular team-building exercises. Just before you begin working on a project, consider what kind of exercises would be suitable:
- Where people come to know each other better;
- Where they resolve their conflicts;
- Where they learn to trust each other.
These exercises do not need to take a full day; a 10-minute exercise can meet the team’s needs. Additionally, these exercises should not be conducted once and forgotten. Just like physical exercise, the frequency of these exercises will extend the longevity of the benefits.
Establish Team Rules
We are not talking about irrelevant and extremely strict rules, but it is important to establish rules that keep everyone safe and “on the same page”. After all, rules safeguard the productivity and success of a team.
Establishing rules early is helpful; however, you must consider changing the rules if they are hindering rather than helping the team. You must be clear about the rules and ensure that each team member understands what is expected. The rules could be:
- When we meet, all members should come in without laptops or mobile phones to minimise distraction;
- We will not hide our frustrations;
- We will listen to others with intent instead of talking;
- We will not contact another team member after office hours unless it is an emergency.
Recognise And Reward
To keep the team inspired and to motivate them to reach the next milestone, you should make a point of rewarding and recognising their efforts. This not only makes them feel honoured but also introduces positive competition amongst team members.
Leaders can invite team members to vote for the recognition-worthy candidate. This way, they are encouraged to build stronger relationships with each other and develop feelings of goodwill.
As well as recognition and rewards, you can also host small parties in the office to celebrate success. Outings, dinners, lunches, and sporting events allow team members to develop stronger connections with each other.
One way to improve team collaboration is to host team innovations where every member of the team is allowed to put their own ideas in front of the whole team. Other team members can then add to the idea to make it even more powerful.
A hypothetical situation can be presented to the team and team members could be asked to offer unique solutions to it. This way, team members are given the opportunity to work collaboratively and generate innovative ideas without constraints such as budget, work pressure, and deadlines.
Encourage Open Communication
As well as having clear conversations, the team should also be able to communicate openly with one another. You can start by asking team members to introduce themselves and tell their stories. Alternatively, you can ask team members to complete a Google docs form, which will reveal their personalities.
You can conduct meetings in a cafeteria, playroom, garden, or even a rooftop instead of using a meeting room or conference hall. A casual environment instills a friendly vibe for employees. You can even ask team members to attend meetings in comfortable clothes. This way, they will feel at ease, communicate openly, and meet each other as friends rather than colleagues.
Sometimes, despite having open communication, team members are unable to express their disagreement about a new idea or approach or another team member’s behavior. If this happens, the team member would not feel comfortable.
To resolve this, each team member can be asked to write anonymous chits relating to their issues inside a bowl. Each week, the chits could be read out to and discussed with team members. This way, employees feel heard without being scared of criticism or judgment from other teammates.
Handle Conflicts Well
It is only natural for employees to disagree with one another. Sometimes, differences in opinion can be so serious that employees start getting into arguments. In such cases, ensure that they come to a common understanding rather than:
- Tuning out;
- Dismissing the other one’s idea;
- Embarrassing the other;
- Walking out of the room;
- Talking aggressively.
If a conflict arises, the team may benefit from the unique perspectives of both parties and the leader may come up with a common solution that is a combination of their opposing views. Conflicts are not a problem until team members feel ignored, unheard, disregarded, or bullied. As a team leader, you must apply the following to resolve or avoid conflict:
- Embrace disagreements;
- Appreciate differences;
- Be unbiased;
- Stay calm.
If you have reached a major milestone, the end of the week, or the final deadline of the project, celebrate with your team members. It will bring everyone closer, boost happiness, and encourage friendly conversations.
Celebrations may not be huge but should be regular. This way, you will remind team members that their hard work and contributions are noteworthy, which will encourage them to work harder to achieve the final goal.
You can host a weekly lunch or dinner at which team members can talk about their small successes from the week. Ask team members to write about their achievements and contributions and talk about them in the meeting. You could also encourage team members to thank each other during this meeting.
Additionally, you can go out for lunch or drinks as a team to celebrate a milestone or praise from a superior. There, you can reward the most helpful or successful team member with a small token of appreciation such as a trophy, a sash, or crown.
Team collaboration makes employees more creative and productive. Since working together gives them a chance to understand each other better, organisational harmony is increased. Additionally, having a friendly work environment makes employees happier and more comfortable in the office.
The above-mentioned tips are just some of the ways to improve team collaboration. Anyone can come up with new ideas to bring team members together. Once a team works in unison, not only will it bring out the best in everyone but it will also enable the organisation to achieve its ultimate goals.