Think back on some of the most intense, rewarding moments of your life and career. Remember some of the successes and the times you helped push the organization forward or contributed to the success of an initiative, event or community project. Did you do it alone? Probably not. Many times, the most satisfying achievements in our lives are the result of participating in a group that rolled up its sleeves and attained a common goal. The project succeeds thanks to the power of collaboration.
For me, that’s the essence of teamwork: Enabling a group of individuals to collectively contribute their own personal strengths to attain a larger goal. I’m not alone. According to a report by Deloitte, collaborative workers complete tasks 15% more quickly than workers “flying solo.” In addition, 56% of workers are more satisfied with their jobs and 73% produce an improved work product when they collaborate, the study says. However, some teams succeed where others fail and the differentiator seems to be their ability to work together to harness collective brain power to solve a broader problem.
Leaders are able to build successful organizations when they enable collaboration, but the reality is that some employees collaborate more easily than others. Teamwork — like any skill — is a natural gift for some. For others, it takes practice to refine.
As a business leader, there are natural moments in time to help employees practice their collaboration skills so that when the time comes to call on that ability they can collaborate quickly and effectively to get the job done. Through the normal rhythm of the work day, employees have natural places of interaction that can serve as teaching moments and enable them to practice collaboration.
Also see: “Top 10 most boring industries to work in.”
Here are six ways to help employees recognize and hone the power of collaboration in their everyday work lives:
1) Encourage delegation. Leaders delegate to keep their organization moving forward, but by empowering others within the organization to delegate, managers can foster the interaction, communication and shared vision necessary for collaboration.
2) Be strategic when setting goals. Whether a company uses performance reviews or has opted to forego these regular formal meetings, setting goals is a prime opportunity to discuss collaboration. Whether it’s conducted in a formal or informal setting, goal-setting conversations are an ideal opportunity to specifically discuss how an employee can improve his or her interaction with colleagues. Even if he or she already is an effective teammate, by discussing collaboration as a skill, employees and managers can reflect on ways to improve the employee’s contributions in this important area.
3) Conduct regular, informal check-ins. Not all check-ins have to be formal. Impromptu meetings across the organization open the lines of communication between employees who do not normally work together. If these people need to work together on a vital project, they will already be familiar with one another, setting the stage for a smooth transition into a collaborative project. Enabling employees to expand their personal networks in the organization also can uncover shared interests and unearth synergies that may prove useful in team situations.
4) Enable passion projects. Many employees enjoy volunteering with nonprofit groups or charitable organizations, and companies are increasingly providing them the opportunity to do so. Given that many nonprofit and charitable organizations use teams to accomplish their work, employees who serve together can learn one another’s work style while broadening their professional network.
5) Sponsor friendly competition. Many companies have established opportunities for friendly competition. Whether fitness challenges or fantasy leagues, these types of activities are ways for employees to get to know one another outside of a work environment. They learn peoples’ passions, interests and views — all important building blocks of workplace empathy, a crucial component of collaboration.
6) Design an open, engaging work environment. Workplace design is a vital component for encouraging collaboration. Many of the previous suggestions can easily come to life in an office that enables employees to regularly interact and work together organically. Shared spaces, open floor plans and natural points of intersection enable many of these impromptu conversations to take place. People are communal by nature and are programmed to gather, so create a space that can let them be social — and to share work-related items in a social context — throughout the day.
There is certainly incentive to boost collaboration. According to the Gallup State of the American Workforce report, strong collaboration can improve engagement — workers in matrixed organizations are more than twice as likely to strongly agree that being on different teams helps them collaborate more effectively with coworkers. But as the workforce evolves, leaders will need to continually assess how they encourage interaction.
Although 81% of employees feel positively that they will be able to work anywhere in the world, according to the ADP Evolution of Work report, 79% believe that technology will allow for deeper connections across distance/time and 72% think social media will become the collaboration platform for work. It will be up to business leaders to uncover new approaches employees can use to build, practice and perfect collaboration in this new environment.
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