So, to manage knowledge you need to address collaboration and tools that help people collaborate. – Peter Senge
Teamwork is critical to success these days. As stated many times before on the Thrive Blog (and many other places for that matter), our organizations are becoming increasingly dependent on teamwork to get things done. Many of us spend significant time working in teams, whether it be leadership teams, senior management teams, or creative type teams. The team environment has become our “new normal”. Unfortunately, these teams don’t always perform as well as they should. I have written on this subject a few times before with a discussion on the difference between functional groups and teams. One thing we have yet to discuss though is the critical piece of encouraging collaboration.
The greatest barrier to team collaboration is often not people’s lack of desire, it is often a lack of understanding. Though some members may not fully appreciate collaborating with their teammates, it seems that this is not typically the case. We live in a very connected world, and I believe this has helped drive a desire for sharing and working with others. The issue I often find is that people confuse conversation with collaboration. They confuse telling you about what they are going to do with asking you for your input. They confuse sharing information with you for working together towards results. It is important that, as leaders, we teach our team that effective collaboration involves more than simply talking to each other (although for some poor performing teams, this is a good start).
Collaboration involves seeking the opinions and experience of your other team members. It means willingly working together towards the same results. It means that we must all value teamwork and truly believe that what the team can accomplish together is greater than our own individual efforts. Collaboration requires that we not simply seek permission to move forward or share our plan of action. It means we engage our other team members in solving a particular problem or developing a plan of action. Most importantly, collaboration requires that we definitively remove any hint of passive aggression. Nothing kills collaboration like passive aggression!
If you are a team leader, take a few minutes to review what collaboration really looks like on your team. It may feel like you are covering something basic, but people often mistake actions like asking permission, sharing information, or providing a plan as team collaboration. It is important they understand that, while these are all positive and healthy, it is not yet true teamwork. I’ll leave you with a few key characteristics of true teamwork and collaboration. This is hardly a complete list, but it does include many dominate traits of quality collaboration.
1. Each team member shares ownership in the outcomes of the team.
2. Each team member shares responsibility for providing outcomes.
3. Team members understand each persons unique strengths and gifts.
4. There are clear roles and functions on the team.
5. Team members communicate on a regular basis, outside of structured meetings.
6. Members actively seek the input of others on the team and incorporate this input.
7. The team learns well and takes action upon learned information.
8. Members truly believe that what the team can accomplish is greater than sum of its parts.