Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Making Collaboration Work

We have worked with many executive teams that want to improve the teamwork and collaboration in their organizations. For some, the issue seemed to be the team members’ personality differences while for others it was a lack of focus, or an inability to take a disciplined approach to achieving results. One of our favorite business resources, the Harvard Review Insight Center, gathers twenty general resources and six HBR articles on how collaboration works.

Below is a simplified list of these findings.

1. Everything starts with trust. Trust is based on four things: competence, reliability, openness and principled behavior. If you and your team members don't know how to demonstrate these characteristics, and are not held accountable for demonstrating them, you will not get past first base. 
2. You need shared goals. Call it a vision, a mission or a strategic intent, but what counts is that everyone knows what the team is there to achieve and buys into the common picture of success. 
3. Roles need to be clear. Unless people know why they are on the team and how they and their colleagues can contribute, the team can't work together. You can’t delegate to each other or capitalize on team members’ strengths unless you have role clarity and understanding. 
4. Processes should be simple and direct. Everyone has worked on a team that reinvents the wheel for the sake of not knowing the best way to get something done. Similarly, most people have worked on a team that spins its wheels because members didn't understand the right responses and actions to be taken. 
5. Relationships are key. When we see dysfunctional teams, members often blame one or more people for not being team players. However, our experience is that relationships start to fray as an outcome of poor trust, goals, roles and processes. Focus on these factors before making decisions on relationships. 
6. Communication is everything. Every engagement survey, every satisfaction instrument, every analysis always emphasizes the importance of communication. It is a basic premise of human psychology that everyone wants to feel heard and valued for who they are. Talk with them, and equally if not more importantly, listen.

In our consulting work we have structured tools that help our clients make significant improvements in each of these six areas. In simplifying these HBR resources for you, we confirmed these basics are the same no matter who the author is or which study you look at.

So what is the take-away for business? Make sure you have good practices around the six areas above, bring in help where you need to and make sure your help understands what really works and has the tools to help you.

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