Though it’s become a habit to praise leaders, visionaries and individuals, nothing is possible without a team. No one person can do everything, which is why every successful business has a strong team behind the scenes. Organizations that incorporate a collaborative mentality into their company culture reap the benefits of teamwork, such as high productivity and sustained growth. But this can only happen with commitment, leadership and diligence, and it must begin at the top.
Regardless of whether your employees work in the office, remotely or a combination of the two, it’s vital your team is able to collaborate effectively. Tools like Slack and Zoom have made it easier than ever to work with colleagues no matter where each individual is located. However, all the technology in the world won’t help if you don’t practice the principles behind successful teamwork.
If you want to create and maintain a collaborative workplace that is effective and efficient, you need supportive leadership and a conducive environment.
“A collaborative culture should be something that employees feel rather than something that the executive team talks about,” said Kevin Lynch, managing partner of Douglas Beach Capital. “[When this happens], it inspires a sense of community within an organization while driving productivity, insight and innovation.”
To cultivate a culture of teamwork and generate high productivity, you first need to show your team how to work well together. Lynch shared six simple ways to encourage an open, cooperative workplace.
Use timelines, plans and structured content that clearly define current and future business goals for the team. This way, all team members can share a point of view and know the direction the company is moving toward. Leadership should ensure everyone understands the team’s goals and what part they specifically play in achieving its objectives.
One way to emphasize the importance of team goals is to reward teamwork ahead of individual accomplishments. Team members who feel they are a part of a valued unit will perform at a higher level than those who feel they are carrying a disproportionate share of the load.
Allow team members to brainstorm in an open, non-judgmental framework that embraces the team’s purpose and direction. Employees need to feel secure enough to take risks, both individually and as a team, and to be willing to suggest daring ideas. After all, creativity is just as important as innovation, and both are essential to the longevity of a business.
Fortunately, creativity can be learned. There are numerous ways to give employees the security they need to take risks and think outside the box. Maureen Berkner Boyt, founder of The Moxie Exchange, suggested periodically hosting a lunch to celebrate the biggest team flops — to show that “we can’t win if we don’t fail, and we can have fun by laughing at our mistakes.” [Read related article: Happy, Loyal Employees Need to Feel Trusted at Work]
Create a means of communication that allows for easy workflow, establishes a distinct set of priorities, and makes all colleagues feel included. Solicit feedback from staff members and listen to employee input to make them feel heard. Ensure everyone is operating from the same playbook so team members can focus and flourish.
Highlight the different ways employees contribute to the business and build teams around common impacts. Forming smaller teams can help group and guide employees at a more manageable size, fostering productivity and accountability. This also gives employees the chance to develop stronger professional relationships, as workers will want to know they can depend on each other to achieve their goals.
Give team members the opportunity to use visuals to share and clarify their ideas at the simplest level. You can do this with anything from rough sketches to full-scale presentations. Most people learn better and retain more information when it’s presented visually, and a collaborative whiteboard, whether physical or virtual, is a great tool.
One benefit of transforming ideas from spoken concepts to visual aids is it can help people digest information easier. It’s one thing to rattle off numbers or statistics, but a visual representation can further everyone’s understanding and comprehension.
Using too many tools can have the opposite of the intended effect and create barriers to successful collaboration instead of facilitating teamwork. If you have conflicting modes of presentation, or if half your team prefers Google Workspace while the other half uses Office 365, valuable productivity can be lost due to incompatible software. While everyone has their preferences on the best workplace tools, being out of sync can make collaboration a frustrating experience.
Furthermore, new workplace tools are constantly hitting the market, and small splinter groups of your workforce may be using technology that others aren’t adept at or even aware of. Leaders should agree upon and enlist just one provider for each medium, whether email, phone or text messaging, that allows teams to communicate efficiently and effectively. For example, check out our review of RingCentral to find out why it’s one of the top business phone systems for companies prioritizing collaboration.
Employees will lose their motivation to work together if nothing ever comes from their efforts. It’s not enough to simply foster a creative environment. You need to take the good ideas your team generates and actually follow through with them. After all, the whole point of developing ideas and setting goals is to actually achieve them.
Follow-through is vital for other aspects of teamwork as well. For example, if a team member raises concerns about a lack of team cohesion and expresses difficulty collaborating due to technological barriers, leadership should take those issues seriously and course-correct. Staffers will be less inclined to work together if leaders only discuss collaboration in theory and don’t ensure it’s possible in practice.
Prioritizing collaboration as a key part of your company culture improves not only employee morale but also business results. A strong team that works together and cooperates with one another brings increased productivity and establishes a formula for continued success. Here are some reasons collaboration and teamwork are critical in business.
One of the byproducts of teamwork is that it makes teams dynamic and comfortable with change. Employees gain experience working with different personality types and learn how to tackle problems together as they arise. You end up with an adaptable and resilient team, which is key to business success.
Building a culture of teamwork and collaboration reduces the number of blindspots in your organization. If everyone works toward a similar goal and shares deadlines and milestones to hit, transparency is required to ensure everyone is in the loop and set up for success. This transparency can make employees feel plugged into what’s going on in the business and why their roles are essential. In turn, they’ll feel more committed to accomplishing the company’s objectives.
When you work as a team, you share the wins — and the losses. Team members recognize that others depend on them and don’t want to be the reason the company fails to reach a certain goal. They are accountable not just to themselves but to the team and the business as a whole. As a result, employees take more pride in their work and embrace their share of the responsibilities.
Collaboration not only helps teams succeed but can also help individual staff members develop and grow within their careers. By working with other people, employees sharpen their communication skills, are exposed to different working styles, and see where their strengths lie in comparison to someone else’s weaknesses and vice versa. With that knowledge, they can better identify where they serve the company well and where they need more professional development to serve the business better going forward.
If you want to sustain a successful business, a team that works well together shouldn’t be considered an added bonus or office perk. Rather, it’s a crucial component of a productive company. An effective and efficient team requires strong leadership and an empowering work culture. The success of SpaceX is attributable just as much to the scientists and engineers as it is to Elon Musk, but those scientists and engineers would get nowhere if they weren’t able to work cooperatively. Being able to cultivate a collaborative environment should be a foundational element of any workplace.
Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.