Encouraging Collaboration Among Team Members
As a new manager, what are you managing? People, of course! And people generally love to work with others. It’s just part of being human.
But some of us prefer to go the “lone wolf” route: we like to work alone, thank-you-very-much, and only join in with others when we absolutely have to.
Collaboration among employees has so many benefits
Here’s why colleagues working together is so important: they can/will
- Learn from each other
- Come up with better solutions to problems
- See more of the “bigger picture,” not just the view from their own “silo”
- Produce quicker results
- And more
Still, it can be challenging to get all team members engaging and collaborating, but….
….It’s your responsibility to encourage collaboration.
This can take some finesse and, if you’re not used to managing, could entail some significant pushback from employees for whom working as a team is a curse to their psyches.
The good news is that as hard as it could be, it probably won’t be. After all, as mentioned above, people tend to truly enjoy others’ company and, more often than not, enjoy a collaborative workplace.
Advice on how a new manager can help encourage collaboration among team members
- Let your employees know that collaboration and teamwork is critical, and each of them must participate. Set clear intentions from the beginning that you expect your department to be/become a collaborative one. Ensure that they know to communicate challenges, deadlines, etc. to each other as soon as possible.
- Encourage listening among colleagues and start by setting the example. Listen closely to each of your team member’s ideas, advice, and feedback. Respect their opinions and answer respectfully. Practice active listening, where you listen to what someone has to say and then repeat it to them, telling them to correct you if what you repeat is incorrect. This helps ensure that you understand not only what they said but their “intention” (their “why”).
- Show a positive attitude whenever you ask for/require collaboration (and when you’re collaborating yourself). If past teamwork didn’t go well, remember that it’s in the past and that you fully expect this instance of collaboration to go very well.
- Create an environment of trust. People work best together in an atmosphere of safety where each gives genuine, caring, constructive feedback (not angry criticism). Creating such an environment can only happen when everyone trusts their coworkers and leaders to have their best interests at heart.
- Lead in a way that shows that everyone has an important part to play on the team. Cohesion and teamwork can break down quickly when even just one person feels they have it harder than anyone else on the team. This is especially so if someone thinks that one or more people are trying to “bring them down.” Make sure team members know that ostracism, secrets, talking behind others’ backs, etc., will not be tolerated.
- Provide clear projects/goals/actions each team member will own/complete. Everyone has different skills. Provide clear direction and parameters – including goals – for each member of your team. We can’t emphasize this part enough: people naturally have their own interests and priorities, so make sure to identify each team member’s top priorities upfront so that everyone knows what everyone’s goals/agendas are (and how they all work together to reach the stated goal).
- Keep meetings efficient and at a minimum. As mentioned in our last post in this series of advice for new managers, hold meetings only when absolutely necessary, create an agenda and distribute it beforehand and let team members know the meeting’s goal(s) and/or outcome(s).
- An open door and “no shame” accountability. Your employees more than likely will relax at some point in a project’s lifetime. This is natural. Let your team members know they can come to you privately if they have a problem either with their part of the project…or if they feel a colleague isn’t pulling their weight. Ensure that no one will be called to task publically, and whining and backstabbing won’t be tolerated: you expect team members to be professional.
- Celebrate small and large wins. Provide status updates regularly and congratulate team members as warranted. Hold small celebrations (let people off early on a Friday afternoon, for example). If you find that one or two people are getting most of the kudos (this usually happens because their work is more critical to the success of a particular goal or project), make sure to find a reason to praise all team members. Thank team members regularly for their efforts not only for the project, but also for their collaborative achievements.
Collaboration among team members helps you, too
Having employees who enjoy working together makes your work as a manager easier.
Plus, collaborative teams tend to do great work. And managers who lead teams who do great work often get noticed by their managers as being successful in their roles. A win for everyone!
Next up in this series: managing without micromanaging
Chances are that you didn’t like to be micromanaged by your manager. After all, “I enjoy being micromanaged,” said no one. Ever.
And we know you don’t want to become THAT manager. Our next post in this series will discuss why micromanaging is a terrible thing to do and offer tips and strategies to help you manage well without….becoming a micromanager.