How to Build and Lead a Collaborative Team

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Collaborate(verb) Meaning – to work jointly on an activity or project. The word traces its origin to the late 19th century: from Latin collaborat- ‘worked with’.

Collaboration is a key factor for all teams to work effectively and perform optimally. People thrive in environments which free them to communicate and work together. Study after study has shown that collaborative teams are more productive overall than teams where each member is sectioned off in their own position. When the company environment is focused on collaboration, team members naturally feel a part of something bigger than themselves.

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”- HELLEN KELLER

The best part is that collaboration and creating a collaborative culture can be learned. The key factors enlisted below are few of the important building blocks to base a collaborative team structure on.

1- Vision

Every good team has a larger purpose for doing the work that they do. They need a reason bigger than themselves for being excellent. Involve them by asking your team to contribute their visions to the larger framework you provide. This will have each team member buy into the goal and will inspire them to be successful. For collaboration to work, the vision and purpose must be clear.

2- Leadership Sponsor

The success of your team’s collaborative effort largely depends on the philosophy of your organization’s top executives and leaders. Your employees should be able to interact with leaders and colleagues alike, gaining a valuable and meaningful experience. Visible leadership support is important for the team members to feel secure and motivated.

3- Defined Team Goals and Metrics

To drive success in team members it’s important to set measurable goals for each team member to review on a regular basis. The purpose of these goals is to provide team members with achievable wins. Create measurable metrics that are data-driven such as time-tracking. This helps asses how much time is spent on each task, making it easier to work together to make adjustments if needed. These wins have a magical way of breaking down barriers and creating positive momentum individually and collectively. Further, it’s imperative to re-evaluate goals and redirect whenever necessary. At each period end, in a transparent manner the outcomes of goals must be discussed with the whole team as a way to measure and celebrate progress, and to determine where improvements need to be made.

4- Integrate and Build on Team-Member Strengths.

Each team member should feel empowered. It is a great strategy to work with their strengths rather than working around their weaknesses. A good idea would be to have each member take a personality test like the StrengthsFinder and subsequently meet together to share results and build on a group plan on that basis. This is a great bonding exercise because the results allow each person to get to know themselves and their team members in a much deeper way. It also gives team members information about who to go to and for what based upon each person’s individual strengths.

5- Encourage Cohesion Between Team Members

Cohesive teams are more successful because each person on the team is included in as many large decisions as possible. When team members feel this type of inclusion, they feel the perceived significance of their role, causing them to naturally perform better. To be the most effective, teams should to participate in daily huddles where each member discusses their goals and objectives for day. This helps to avoid duplication of effort and competition between team members. These huddles keep everyone on the same playbook and enables team members to re-direct their efforts as needed.

6- Encourage New Ideas

Develop a process for team members to regularly come together for an idea sharing meeting devoid of any other agenda. Everyone in the team should be encourage to share their life experiences and creative intuitions that will bring out novel solutions to problems. Make sure each of your team members feels safe expressing their opinions to you and the team in general.For teams to grow they must be encouraged to brainstorm and question the status quo in an open and non-judgmental environment.

7- Rotating Responsibilities

By rotating the task of meeting facilitation, all members have a chance to function as the leader and contribute their ideas about organization and planning to the team. In a collaborative environment, each team member contributes their skills and experience to benefit the entire project.

8- Build Team Relationships after Work

Ensure to get to know your team and then design a personal experience for them so they can bond in a way that is natural and not forced. Encourage them to go for happy hour after work, attend events together, and do activities like hikes and day trips on the weekends with each other. These kinds of experiences can vastly improve the feeling of cohesion among team members and boost morale.

9- Celebrate Collaboration

Anytime team members collaborate in a productive way that results in a good outcome for the business and moves the team closer to achieving its goals, make sure to highlight this to the rest of the team. You can do this with a simple email where you copy the rest of the team and your own superior, or you can note the collaboration at a team meeting and give them a round of applause. These simple gestures mean a lot to team members and set an example for others.

10- Building on Previous Efforts

On the conclusion of every project, effective project managers document the lessons learned. When new projects start, taking advantage of the tips and techniques from promoting collaboration helps the new team ramp up faster.

Conclusion

The above guidelines require regular practice for them to be imbibed in the team culture for collaboration to be a natural follow through. Truly collaborative teams aim to bridge all the gaps, both individually and collectively. Conscious efforts over the years will help build a collaborative team culture in the organisation with noticeable results.

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Vishal Chhiber, Vice President – Human Resources, Emerio (an NTT Communications Company). He oversees the human resources domain, from onboarding to off boarding employees for Emerio’s operations in Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and India. Earlier, Vishal was the Regional HR Head, heading HR operations for Kelly Services Asia Pacific. He has two decades of experience as an HR professional having worked in the APAC region in various roles at Discovery Networks, Monsanto and Maruti Suzuki. He has worked in HR in Merger and Acquisition scenarios, launching of new business verticals and also in setting up a JV. Vishal holds an MBA in HR from XLRI Institute of Management & Research, Jamshedpur, India.

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