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What Does Good Team Collaboration Look Like?

by: Shiv Sharma

Every team wants to collaborate better. Managers generously throw the word “collaboration” around in meetings every day. The cloud computing explosion has created an entire suite of products categorized as team collaboration tools.

It’s safe to say that collaboration has acquired an illustrious spot in the pantheon of business jargon alongside “synergy”, “seamless” and “thought leadership”.

What does good team collaboration look like? It seems like a simple question but many teams equate good collaboration with good communication. They can’t tell the difference between the two. To make matters worse, collaboration is so heavily used in corporate-speak that it has become a banal term that doesn’t evoke any reaction.

In this post, we’ll talk about the essence of collaboration, understand how it’s different from communication, and discuss what good collaboration looks like.

What is Team Collaboration?

The Cambridge dictionary defines collaboration as the situation of two or more people working together to create or achieve the same thing.

Collaboration is a concept contextual. It’s based on the specific project the team works on. We always have to look at collaboration in the context of specific goals of any team. This is what differentiates it from communication.

A team might have great communication which can be visible in its camaraderie and frictionless interactions. But being good at collaboration means that it needs to accomplish its goals in addition to having great communication.

Essentially, collaboration is as much a project management function as it’s a communication function.

What Does Good Collaboration Look Like?

There are some specific signs visible in teams that collaborate effectively. Teams that display these traits have a high chance of hitting their objectives.

1. Goal Alignment

When you ask anyone about the team’s top goal/north star, they don’t think twice before giving their answer, which is consistent with everyone else. When there is clarity on the most important goals of the team, prioritization becomes easy.

It helps to have a workflow that encourages transparency and offers visibility into what each colleague is working on. This ensures that there are no nasty surprises when the team is close to the project due date. That’s why to boost collaboration many teams use visual workflows such as Kanban and spreadsheets.

2. Knowledge Sharing

Collaborative teams have a culture of knowledge sharing. A seamless flow of information helps in speeding up the project progress.

They also understand the importance of having a knowledge hub where any team member can retrieve relevant information. Most online collaboration tools offer at least basic file management for this very reason. An average employee spends up to 9 hours per week searching for information. A knowledge hub reduces this time significantly and allows them to focus on more productive tasks.

However, knowledge sharing isn’t limited to project information. It also includes sharing insights, career advice, and constructive feedback.

3. Conflict Resolution

Collaborative teams don’t discourage conflict. They understand that conflict is a natural part of teamwork. But what they do focus on is resolving conflicts with urgency.

How they actually do it depends on many factors, such as the country and company culture. Some cultures follow a candid approach while others might involve a third person to help with conflict resolution. Conflicts, if effectively resolved, help build trust. Each conflict is an opportunity to bring the team together.

4. Individual Development

“There is no I in team” looks good on motivational posters, but it’s one of the worst ways to approach collaboration.

Why should anyone care about team collaboration if the team doesn’t care about their personal aspirations? Teams that understand it are more likely to collaborate better. It’s important to understand the individual goals of your team members and motivate them. Employee development programs, career planning, sponsored training, and courses are some popular ways in which teams can help their members grow.

5. A Rewarding Culture

A culture that emphasizes on rewards is more likely to evoke a wider degree of participation. Most teams that collaborate well together have a great incentive mechanism in place. They reward individuals for high performance and create a plan to deal with unsatisfactory results.
They also have a robust team-wide incentive program that rewards everyone if the team hits their targets.

Competitive compensation and performance-based individual/team incentives are powerful motivators. However, even nonmonetary rewards such as public appreciation can go a long way in creating a rewarding culture.

6. High Accountability

Collaborative teams have high accountability. This doesn’t mean a culture of fingerpointing, but an environment where each task has only one accountable person and everyone is aware of it. That’s why most online collaboration tools and models such as RACI encourage you to only have one person accountable for one task.

Such teams create a safety net to encourage accountability. They empower people to raise their problems and acknowledge mistakes rather than brushing them under the carpet.

An interesting thing about accountability is that its contagious, especially if it comes from the top. Accountable management lays the foundation for high performing teams.

7. Trust & Empathy

Empathy is an essential ingredient for successful collaboration. The ability to put yourself in the shoes of others helps you understand their side of the bargain. This helps in reaching consensus during challenging discussions.

Empathy helps build trust. When you trust your teammates, it becomes easier to work on interdependent tasks. Building trust is a gradual process and doesn’t happen overnight. But once established, it really helps unlock the full potential of your team.

What is a Good Collaboration Tool?

A good collaboration tool can strengthen the way your team operates. So what is a good collaboration tool? There is no single answer to it as it entirely depends on what workflow your team wants to adopt.

For example, if your team wants to collaborate using spreadsheets, Smartsheet is a great option. If you’d like to collaborate only using messaging, then Slack works well too. Google Docs is great for collaborating using documents.

If you would like to collaborate using Kanban boards, try out Taskworld. Over 4000 companies across 80 countries manage their projects on it. Sign up here for your free trial.

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