by Granville Triumph
Remember when “team player” used to appear in every job listing and on every applicant’s resumé? Although overuse may have turned the phrase into a cliché, the ability and willingness to collaborate with a team in order to develop ideas, make decisions, complete projects and achieve goals has always been a sought-after quality.
Today, teamwork and collaboration have been elevated from buzzwords to business necessities. The pace of business requires fast, effective collaboration in order to quickly respond to customer demands and market conditions. Because complex business tasks often require a number of specialists, neither departments nor individuals can operate in silos. In fact, tall walls have been removed from cubicles in many offices to allow for the open flow of communication.
Technology has been the core driver of collaboration and teamwork. Unified communications technology brings together voice, videoconferencing, email, instant messaging and other tools and services to enable teams to collaborate in real time. Mobility makes it possible to have access to critical applications and data so business can be conducted from anywhere on any device.
These technological investments are no longer viewed as cost-saving measures. Technology that allows for faster, more effective collaboration and teamwork is a strategic business asset.
For example, customers won’t wait for you to go back to the office, speak to your manager to get approval on an agreement, and return the next day for a signature. A competitor with the right technology can complete the same process in 10 minutes.
Taking full advantage of teamwork requires an understanding of what collaboration is and is not. Collaboration isn’t about never-ending meetings with discussions that go in circles and leave employees feeling like their time was wasted. Collaboration doesn’t occur when one person speaks and everyone else listens. Speaking to a person or a group of people is communication, but it’s not collaboration. That’s not even interaction.
Collaboration is when two or more people work together to complete a task or create something that enables a business objective to be met. In a collaborative environment, all parties must proactively engage and stay committed to the team’s common goal, not individual goals. This requires trust, honesty, transparency and conflict resolution to overcome disagreements and minimize miscommunication. It’s okay to have different ideas as long as you share the same goal.
Leaders should take the following steps to foster a collaborative environment:
- Lead by example to promote collaboration as core components of the company culture.
- Set expectations that clarify the importance of collaboration to the company’s success.
- Establish long-term and short-term goals, monitor progress and re-evaluate as needed.
- Define individual roles but make sure every team member is involved when decisions need to be made.
- Leverage employee strengths by developing an understanding of each team member’s skills, experiences and personality traits.
- Encourage creativity in a non-judgmental, non-dismissive environment.
- Recruit people who value working together to achieve the common goal and avoid those who are domineering or prefer to work alone.
- Invest in technology that overcomes obstacles to teamwork and collaboration.