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5 tips for managers looking to improve how their teams collaborate

people working together

You hire the best people for the job, so when it comes to industry knowledge, critical thinking, and innovative insights, your team is worth its weight in gold. Yet getting these talented people to work together on cross-functional projects is more challenging than we think.  

The challenges to effective collaboration within a team are many but these tips can help you encourage more brain-writing and improving collaboration in your team.

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Great ideas can come from anyone

5tips_2Titles can be divisive, invisible barriers to effective workplace communication and team collaboration. Not only can strict hierarchies hinder growth and get in the way of productivity, but they also encourage individuals to suppress their creativity and keep would-be great ideas to themselves.

It is easy to assume that a company’s game-changers are those in leadership roles, but that is neither true nor useful to the creative process. Letting go of titles can help remove tension and resentment within the work environment, thereby creating a healthier space for everyone to communicate in an open, non-threatening manner.
Encourage team members to generate and cultivate ideas on their own, and focus less on handing down orders from a position of authority. Use that authority to inspire great ideas from everyone in your team. Encourage dialogue, as it facilitates the creative process. Sharing ideas contributes to innovation and pushes the envelope of possibilities in ways otherwise limited by titles and roles.

Great teams are made of great people


Empower every individual in your team to contribute to decision-making for projects. Start by saying, “I understand you have some concerns about this project. Let’s have a discussion with __, and together, we can do something about this.” Focus on the contributions of the individual to improve healthy cohesion within the team. 



Build cross-functionally, not hierarchically


Building cross-functional teams can dissipate the pressure on employees in aggressively hierarchical companies. A matrix-style reporting structure with no official hierarchy may represent the next step in creating healthy, lateral communication and collaboration. Lateral communication reduces confusion between different teams working on separate components of an overall project. It helps the greater project come together seamlessly and serves to prevent issues with missed deadlines.
When decisions are handed down from a higher authority, horizontal collaboration can assist with enforcing those mandates across different groups and teams. The focus here is not to completely remove top-down authority but to transform it into an effective means to affirm team collaboration.

Sometimes, you should get out of your own way


Management can, sometimes, be a roadblock for team collaboration. Your people need time and space to allow their creative processes to flow. Peering over their shoulders and setting unrealistic expectations only hinders that process and creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. Once you empower the individual, your next move should be to get out of the way.
Trust the processes in place within your organization to hire the right people… then trust those people to do their job. Consider adopting the 95-95 rule - let yourself be okay with 95% of the work being perfect 95% of the time. Then, micromanagement will also decrease by 95%.

Channel conflict and tension into creativity


Helping great people work together means addressing conflicts head-on as soon as they arise… not as problems to be surmounted but as an inherent part of the creative process to be channeled properly. Conflict, handled carefully and constructively, can lead to ideas that spark new innovation and help solve roadblocks to project completion.
The pursuit of improving team cohesion and thus productivity must come from a place of inspiration. Encourage your team to contribute to discussions, and focus on their needs as individuals in order to most effectively leverage their contributions. When it is necessary to provide direction, do so by affirming lateral communication and cross-functional collaboration.
Last but not least, take time for self-reflection to identify areas of opportunity for yourself as a manager so you do not engage in controlling or micromanaging behavior.

Collaboration, Team Management