Be the best. The fastest. The most. Many of us grew up in a world that put competitiveness on a pedestal, stemming from a core belief in the power of dog-eat-dog as a beacon of success. If you stomp out the competition, you’re the winner, right?
Well, it all depends on what you’re trying to achieve. In recent years, we’ve seen a paradigm shift when it comes to doing business. Leaders have put competition aside and started seeing the power of collaboration instead. “Business models that embrace collaboration and cooperation are uniquely positioned to take market share in this era of change as client behaviors and expectations evolve,” RealLeaders explains.
It’s not just a trend or an opinion — the data backs it up. All the way back in 2014, a Deloitte study showed some interesting results: businesses that employed collaborative strategies were twice as likely to outperform their competitors and to be profitable, and less 60% likely to see reduced profitability over time. Since then, we’ve seen time and time again how collaboration allows for better development, quality and creativity, increasing productivity and profitability.
If you’re ready to embrace the power of cooperation, but aren’t sure how to do so, here are a few tips to encourage collaboration at work.
1. Get the right tools
In order to properly put collaboration on the agenda, you need to have the right infrastructure. Be it a CRM, video conferencing and task management tools or a calendar, it’s crucial that your organization lists its needs and finds innovative technological solutions to enable better collaboration.
Let us give you an example of why tools are so important. One of the most used programs in business is Microsoft Excel, however, it’s also somewhere where collaboration goes to die. Although you can send out an email with the file for someone else to work on, it quickly becomes chaos. “When Excel files are being copied, edited and transmitted between staff, managing and controlling these files can quickly turn into an operational quagmire, with version confusion, propagated errors and copies getting into the wrong hands,” the Excel experts at EASA clarify. Finding a software solution to these problems is vital if you want better professional collaboration.
2. Put communication first
The key to collaboration is always communication. While programs like Slack and Zoom can be helpful for the practical side of it, they are not enough. You still need to create an atmosphere that encourages open and productive interactions and ensure that your staff can do so in a healthy manner. This includes both communication among peers and between managers and employees.
There are many ways to improve workplace communication, but the most fundamental part is to place clear importance on it. Make sure that your staff are encouraged to speak their minds, but also provide them with the opportunity to develop their skills when it comes to conveying a message clearly and effectively. You want people to communicate clearly, with the goal of preventing conflict and increasing creativity, overall leading to better outcomes that are the result of a variety of perspectives and ideas.
3. Set expectations and goals
Managing project expectations is crucial to preventing frustrations, but it’s also vital that your staff know what they’re working towards. Ensuring that they are aware of what they need to achieve will make the road to fulfilling it that much more straightforward. Only when everyone knows what they’re working towards will they be able to start collaborating effectively.
It’s all about focus: don’t be vague or general with your purpose, but make sure it’s broken down clearly. This also includes the tools and resources that are available for the team, so that they can make the most out of them while not going over budget.
4. Avoid micromanagement
For your team to collaborate, they need to feel the freedom to open up their minds and get their creative juices flowing. In other words: they require autonom, meaning micromanagement will be a big pitfall. It’s sometimes difficult to let go of control, but it’s necessary for optimal results — trust your employees. After all, they were hired because they’re good at their job.
This doesn’t mean, though, that you leave them to fend for themselves. As we mentioned previously, it’s crucial that they know exactly what they’re trying to accomplish and what’s available to them for this purpose. However, it doesn’t end there. They should know that your company can provide them with support should they need it, and who to reach out to if this is, in fact, the case. Having a clear structure of autonomy allows for the focus that’s necessary for innovation, which will open up collaboration.
5. Celebrate wins but give constructive feedback
As we’ve discussed, communication is essential. This means constructive criticism is to be expected and even appreciated — this ensures your staff can learn from mistakes and improve on their work. This kind of constructive feedback will also be required among the team, allowing each other to learn from each other’s strengths and brainstorm successfully..
However, criticism is not enough — there also needs to be some recognition of victories. Gratitude will not only make employees feel valued, but it is also a significant element of a culture that influences fruitful collaboration. Celebrate wins and encourage the team to be vocal about their appreciation of one another, say thanks and congratulate each other for good work. This will help feedback be taken less personally, and instill a sense of community in the office.