Skip to main content

The Art of Collaboration

An image showing skydivers forming a shape to signify collaboration.

It has been said that competition makes us faster but collaboration makes us better.

Collaboration means everyone can contribute: you get to use all the experience in your team, not just some of it.  Not only does a collaborative culture enable you to ensure opportunities and risks are more transparent and manageable, it also makes work more enjoyable and satisfying.

Yet some organisations subtly discourage collaborative working even though they talk loudly about wanting it.  Individual targets, lack of cross-departmental communication and rigid decision-making processes encourage people to compete and play their cards close to their chests.  When your team members only look down at their own work and never glance to the left and right to see what others are up to and how they could add value, it is death to collaboration.

So, if you want a more collaborative work culture, you have to make some changes.  We know – we’ve seen clients of ours make those changes.  It doesn’t happen overnight and it does take repeated practice, but with time a collaborative spirit starts to spread.  Here are some actions that definitely make an impact.

  • Destroy silos. A meaningful way to do this is by agreeing unifying goals.  Everyone should know how their work impacts on the overall goals but also how it impacts on other teams and departments.  Create a culture where everyone feels like they are an important piece of the pie and what they do matters.
  • Build trust. It’s the foundation for just about everything.  Trust is the belief that people will deliver what they say they will, that they will honour their commitments, be reliable and not say one thing and do another.  Collaboration encourages trust and trust encourages collaboration.  One way to build trust is to look at the communication style of your organisation.  Is it as open and inclusive as it could be?  If not, consider what you could do to make it less concealed.
  • Create a team environment of high support and high challenge. We’ve seen it too often for it to be a coincidence.  Excellent managers who lead teams that get results, know how to provide the combination of high-level support and energetic challenge to make sure everyone excels.  Mediocre managers who lean too heavily on one without the other will only ever get inconsistent, average results.

That’s not the whole story but it’s a start.  We work with teams at all levels to help them develop collaborative working.  It’s an art and a science, but luckily, it’s not rocket science.