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9 Tips on How To Nurture Team Collaboration

Morgan Lichtenstein
5 min read

With a changing mix between remote digital-first roles, hybrid-work models, and teams that are back in the office, setting clear expectations around communication is more important than ever. 

A new year is always a healthy benchmark to set new goals for improvement. Workplace landscapes will continue to evolve in 2023. Make sure your teams are prepared for effective collaboration. 

How To Nurture Team Collaboration

Here are 9 tips on how to nurture your team’s collaboration skills in the new year: 

1. Encourage Open-Mindedness 

If you’re ever going to become an effective collaborator, you’re going to need to be able to be open-minded enough to embrace startling new ideas.

As with any group meeting,  you’ll encounter a room full of opinions on how the project should proceed. Your brain needs to be receptive enough not to reject the ideas the first time it hears them.

Those who are a little more hesitant about accepting new ways of looking at a problem could set up mental roadblocks that could make it challenging to collaborate

However, individuals who have an innate curiosity will flourish in this kind of creative chaos. That’s why if you’re a manager, it’s crucial to find ways to cultivate curiosity in your employees.

Start every meeting with a reminder that you want to foster a climate where everyone can fearlessly put forth innovative ideas without being confronted with an avalanche of criticism and ridicule. Ideas in their early stages are fragile and must be given enough time and space to flourish.

Questions can be asked if they arise from a place of intense curiosity and not from any egoic need to make the participant look important at others' expense.

2. Be Clear, Honest, and Transparent 

Another crucial component of effective collaboration is clear communication.

Everybody must be able to express themselves to one another in a completely unambiguous way. Each employee has a different communication style, and all must be honored if collaboration is going to be effective.

Don’t discount a person’s thoughts just because he has difficulty expressing them.

If someone doesn't feel comfortable communicating in a group setting, find a way to accommodate that communication preference, so everyone's voice is heard.

For example, someone who’s painfully shy might prefer written communication over its verbal counterpart. By failing to allow everyone to speak in their preferred communication style, your most outspoken team members will upstage everyone else. 

The result? 

An important voice will be stifled.

Collaboration only works when every single voice is heard. A collaborative workplace is one where everyone throughout the organization has a voice, is on equal footing, and can contribute their abilities and skills to the project at hand.

Another excellent way to give everyone a voice is to find an intranet platform or collaboration tool that everyone at your company can use.

Trello is one such tool.

It’s a way to collaborate by organizing your projects into boards. Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process.

3. Adopt Cloud-Based Collaboration Solutions 

Most teams, whether executive or downstream, have become accustomed to video conferencing  - utilizing tools such as: Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet. Adopting a cloud-based platform to aggregate and flesh out ideas helps accommodate for the shift from in person to virtual collaboration sessions. From Miro and Figma, to Google Docs and Slack, shared white boarding spaces and communication platforms are two of the most effective ways for teams to generate their next big idea or to formulate a solution. Working together in real time empowers teams the flexibility they need to be productive and achieve their project goals efficiently. 

As these tools are increasingly hitting the market, giving teams a digital way to brainstorm and synchronously work on tasks, they are eliminating travel between cities and even from the home to the office while still offering coworkers the opportunity to effortlessly communicate and complete tasks. 

4. Spark Healthy Debates

There’s no way you can become an effective collaborator unless you’re able to energetically debate ideas with other team members without becoming angry and overheated.

Good debate is the driver of innovation. Unless you're capable of doing it civilly, you're ignoring one of your best collaboration tools. When you become too emotionally invested in your opinions, effective debate becomes impossible.

If you’re a leader, you need to facilitate a climate where there are ground rules and expectations so that healthy debate doesn’t become impolite.

5. Drive More Efficient Meetings

Run meetings more efficiently if you want to become a world-class collaborator.

Meetings that don’t have a tight focus are productivity killers and make effective collaboration all but impossible. Write your agenda down and stick to it and start and end your meetings precisely on time.

During the meeting, make it crystal clear how each person will contribute to the project.

That's because, without clearly defined responsibilities, chaos and anarchy will reign. This will undermine your collaborative efforts.

Everyone walks into a meeting with their own priorities and agendas. By identifying those things up front, you'll know where everyone is coming from. This makes it easier to reach a consensus.

6. Improve Adaptability

Because no project that was ever conceived by a human mind went precisely as planned, you're going to have to be endlessly adaptable to changing circumstances.

While it's a skill that needs to be in the toolbox of all effective collaborators, it's challenging to teach. Supervisors should lead by example by staying calm when the unforeseen raises its ugly head.

Focus on the next steps to show your team what it's like to be a collaborator who isn’t reactive and instead goes with the flow.

7. Push for Long-Term Thinking

The ability to think long-term is yet another building block of effective collaborators. When collaborating with others, you'll need to be able to clearly envision the result of all your hard work.

To make it meaningful on a personal level, you’ll need to see how your contributions fit into the overall goal. This means being fully aware of the project’s scope and everyone’s role in it.

The more you know about its scope, the better you’ll be able to do your part to bring it to fruition. Managers can help you to do this by explaining in precise detail why the project is being undertaken.

8. Teach Active Listening

For hybrid, remote, and in-person teams, it takes active listening skills to align on goals, build out workflows, and efficiently complete tasks. When teaching active listening best practices, highlight these 3 main aspects: 

  1. Approach the conversation with a collaborative mindset. Every interaction is a chance to learn something new, elucidate on an idea, and build workplace relationships.
  2. Engage with the speaker. Make eye contact and respond by nodding and with helpful feedback or questions. 
  3. Ask clarifying questions. Ensure you understand the key takeaways from every conversation by reviewing and summarizing all points of action.

Remind your team that when they come to meetings or 1:1 conversations with the mindset of actively participating in the conversation, everyone will leave with a fuller understanding of their action items.

9. Have One-on-One Conversations

In today’s digital-first work environment, Zoom Fatigue has deterred people from setting up additional touchpoints. We tend to overcomplicate things in the information age by filtering our communications through too many digital channels and sometimes, a clear 1:1 discussion is the best way to align and solve a problem together.  

Say you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure where you fit into the collaboration puzzle, and the new-fangled digital channels are failing to clear away the mind-deadening fog. In that case, it’s time to pick up the phone and make a quick call.

Nine times out of ten, this simple action can make things crystal clear again. An important way to clear the air is to disagree and commit, which is used when the team has decided to focus on one project, but an individual member of the team thinks it should be doing something else.

The strategy allows an employee to have his objection heard while moving the project forward.

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