The ability and effectiveness of a team’s collaboration is influenced by the team leader’s ability to foster collaborative interaction.
This column is the second in a series of three that explores more thoroughly my Stop, Collaborate and Listen column published in July. The focus for this column is on collaborating.
Webster’s Dictionary provides two definitions for the word collaborate. One is “to work jointly with others or together” and the second is “to cooperate with an agency with which one is not immediately connected.”
For the most part, collaboration in the workplace involves the first definition, working jointly with others on a team to complete a task, project, or some strategic direction deemed important by leadership. A team’s ability to work together internally to develop sound strategies, objectives, tactics, and increase their ability to execute on those strategies is highly dependent upon that team’s ability to collaborate. How effective a team is in collaborating is greatly influenced by the team leader’s ability to foster collaborative interaction.
Here are a few tips to help you more effectively lead a collaborative effort.
Set Goals: There is a popular saying in leadership that goes “what gets measured, gets done.” Having a goal keeps the team focused on the big picture and defines what success looks like for the team. If what the team is working on is large in scope, you may need to add some milestones to ensure progress is being made towards the larger goal.
While leading a large project in a previous life, I received a valuable piece of advice from a co-worker: "Keep the ball rolling." I thought back to that often while leading that effort, especially during stretches when it seemed that progress was slowing. Keep the momentum going, even if it’s in small increments. Any progress is better than no progress.
Consistent Communication: As a leader, you want to make sure that the team is on the same page and working together to achieve the stated goal. Clearly lay out responsibilities and do not be afraid to over communicate. Transparency is important and being open and honest with people will make them feel like they’re part of the team.
Encourage Sharing: You want members of the group to be team players, but you also want to set some ground rules. Encourage and welcome feedback from all and the sharing of thoughts, ideas, and tasks designed to achieve a goal. But clearly state that all ideas are important, but once a direction is decided upon, we all must commit to it, even if we voiced disagreement with it previously.
Don’t Micro-Manage: Trust your colleagues to do good work and provide a good support structure that they can lean on when help is needed. If you have good people, give direction and get out of the way. Allow them the space to work, create, and achieve success. This can be difficult for some leaders, especially when being held accountable for the results of the group.
Another old leadership saying is “Inspect what you expect.” Periodically check in to see the status of work being done with the project but focus less on “how” things get done and more on “that” it gets done. Nothing will hamper a team’s effort and morale more than a leader who can’t get out of the way and wants their fingerprints all over the project. Micro-managing will slow progress, minimize creative thinking, and create an environment where team members are hesitant to bring the best of themselves to the project.
So, these are a few thoughts on collaboration. Next up in the trilogy is “Stop.” Often our mouth works faster than our brain, which can make this difficult.
Until next month, happy selling!