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Cultivating a Collaborative Team Culture

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. — Margaret Mead

Many of today’s workers have a new appreciation for collaboration, having experienced some degree of separation and isolation in remote teams at the height of the pandemic.

While effective collaboration may still be thought by some as just another corporate buzzword, there are tangible benefits to fostering a collaborative culture the workplace.

An effective collaborative environment helps spur creativity and innovation that results in greater productivity.

It allows employees to feel more engaged and thus more satisfied with their work. And while working closely with others can lead to conflict at times, healthy conflict has its own benefits — debate forces teams to test ideas and make them stronger, and can create a game-changing disruption and culture shift within an organization or industry.

So how can company leaders cultivate a culture of collaboration within their teams?

It starts with three fundamental principles: purpose, clarity and psychological safety.

Defining the Purpose

A team’s purpose is fundamental to its existence. Its purpose is its point of connection and its guiding light or common goal — it is the reason the team was formed and tasked to do what it does.

Working on a daily basis without a defined purpose is a bit like trying to hit a bullseye while being blindfolded. At first it might seem challenging and perhaps even exciting, but after a while, you might start to feel a little foolish and possibly even frustrated.

Seeing the target makes all the difference. It’s no surprise, then, that the highest performing teams have a clearly defined purpose and that team members understand it.

When strong teams connect through and commit to a common purpose, workplace collaboration becomes easier and working relationships feel more fluid than forced.

When the purpose is clear, team members engage more in collaborative behaviors with their work and with each other, and they can see the impact of their collective efforts.

Preparing a written purpose statement can help you begin to define and clearly articulate your team’s purpose.

Review our purpose checklist to identify your mission and begin to outline your purpose statement.

Providing Clarity

Workplace dynamics are undergoing a dramatic shift.

Technological advancements via collaboration tools, changes to traditional work schedules and practices, and a new generation entering the workforce all lend a level of complexity to the landscape. Rapid change often leads to uncertainty and ambiguity.

Misconceptions and misunderstandings can become a distraction that detract from employee engagement, make it difficult for teams to focus, and can eventually lead to poor employee retention.

Clarity allows teams to engage in effective team collaboration and make decisions with greater conviction. It also ensures that a team’s efforts and tasks are aligned with the organization’s overall mission.

When team members understand their function and collective company goals as well as their individual roles and responsibilities, they gain a greater sense of confidence and trust. People grow stronger still when they recognize their personal strengths and understand how those strengths contribute to the team and complement others.

The end result is more organic and productive collaborative efforts.

Senior leaders and team leaders can provide their team clarity through regular check-ins — that could be an in-person meeting or virtual one-on-one and impromptu at the coffee bar or more formally at a weekly team meeting. And routine and constructive feedback give team members the assurance they are on track and contributing in positive ways.

The key is that providing clarity isn’t a “one and done” concept — it is a valuable practice that requires an open and ongoing internal communication dialog.

Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish essayist and philosopher, once said, “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”

Big-picture thinking and visionary ideas serve to inspire, but providing clarity by establishing a team’s function and immediate direction allows employees to successfully move forward together with strong collaboration efforts.

Fostering Psychological Safety

Collaborative organizations and teams listen to and leverage everyone’s ideas and input. That means team members must feel safe to openly express themselves and share their thoughts creating an environment of trust.

Psychologically safe environments allow people to feel comfortable showcasing their strengths and speaking up about what they need from others to be successful.

Collaboration and innovation become more robust because team members can share their ideas — even the most outlandish ones — with confidence.

Psychologically safe cultures are built from within and fostered by leaders who are willing to be transparent and model supportive behaviors building strong relationships with team members.

That includes being vulnerable and acknowledging past mistakes and personal weaknesses.

By framing potential mistakes as opportunities to learn and improve, leaders encourage their team to embrace disciplined risk. And looking for team input through collaboration rather than instinctively issuing orders helps team members grow and develop their individual decision-making skills and find creative solutions.

Cultivating Collaborative Teams

Productive, high-performing teams recognize the benefits of a collaborative company culture. They understand that heightened engagement and innovation result when effectively working together toward a shared purpose.

They appreciate clarity and welcome healthy conflict. And their leaders foster psychological safety through a balance of vulnerability and encouragement. Teams grounded in a strong collaboration culture don’t just produce results – they contribute to a healthy, positive work culture.

To learn more about how to build teams that can achieve successful collaboration, consider our High-Performing Teams workshop. It can help teams define their purpose, provide clarity around member’s individual contributions, and ensure people feel safe and confident to achieve success. Ultimately building high performing employees.

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