Collaboration is king in the modern workplace, where team-oriented workflows are used to boost productivity and improve efficiency. We’ve long since known that many hands make light work, but even science backs it up, with research finding that groups outperform even the best individuals.
However, teamwork is a skill, and just like any other, it needs to be learned, practiced, and improved over time. Even if your team is the smoothest of collaborators, there’s always room for improvement.
So, to help you up your game and master the art of collaboration, we will go through 7 essential skills you can use to unite your team today.
1. Effective Communication
Strong collaboration skills start with effective communication – how will you work together if you can’t even talk?
To begin, ensure your team has the right tools for the job. Once this was a landline and fax machine, but these days companies need a range of digital communication channels to keep conversations flowing.
One of the most important of these is a chat app, which allows team members to talk more conversationally, leading to faster and more dynamic collaboration. This should be paired with a general push for your team to be clear and concise in all their communications while avoiding being curt.
At the same time, your team needs to engage in active listening, which involves being attentive to what a person is saying, responding appropriately, and providing feedback. This helps build deeper collaborative relationships and knowledge sharing. A really important part of this is being open-minded because otherwise, you will be thinking instead of listening when another team member is talking, which doesn’t help you or them. Remember, listen to the person rather than wait for the gap in the conversation.
A key part of effective communication is being able to give, receive and respond to constructive feedback. This allows individuals to grow and the team to come to the best possible outcome and relies on one underlying principle: trust.
2. Building Trust
Trust is hard-earned, easily lost, and a core part of strong team collaboration. To get your team working together, you need to make sure that they know they can rely on you and each other.
On a basic level, this comes down to ensuring transparency and honesty throughout your organization. This collaboration skill starts with the leaders of a company, who should model these ideas by clearly communicating and following through on goals, plans and promises. Admit when you’ve made a mistake and learn to accept constructive feedback.
Trust can also be developed by building a supportive and inclusive environment for your team. Having a workplace culture where people feel safe to voice ideas, try new things, and take calculated risks is what leads to innovation. Never dismiss a team member’s contribution, always listen, and offer support as often as possible.
While trust is key for collaboration, working together also builds trust. Take advantage of this circle by actively encouraging collaboration and shared decision-making in your team. Create opportunities for people to work together and (gently) push people to own the choices they make as a group.
3. Teamwork and Cooperation
For your team to master the art of collaboration, they need to feel part of the group. They need to be invested in the team and be cooperative. A big step towards this is fostering the collaboration skills of collective responsibility and decision-making.
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.
It’s important that each individual team member is accountable for their work, but to step up collaboration, they also need to feel responsible for team goals, targets and projects. This is often connected to negative outcomes (holding a team responsible for a missed target), but positive outcomes are equally important to reinforce – a win for the team is a win for the individual.
A great way to encourage this sense of collective responsibility is to involve individuals in group decision-making. Team goals, targets, and roadmaps should be developed as a group, allowing everyone to become a stakeholder.
Additionally, find the various ways that your team can collaborate most effectively. Not every skill has synergy, so take the time to see who and what works well together. Those differences in skills and synergy aren’t a drawback, however. Diverse strengths and perspectives can be leveraged for even more effective teamwork and collaboration.
4. Adaptability and Flexibility
Embracing change and adapting to new trends is a vital part of your collaboration skills as it allows individuals and teams to keep moving forward, whatever may be thrown at them. This doesn’t mean accepting things they don’t like but instead nurturing the ability to turn challenges into successes.
Team members must be open to new approaches and alternative ideas so they can work with people who may disagree with their approach or take a different direction than they would have chosen. The same is true of the team as a whole – as a group, you must be able to adapt to the alternative approaches of other departments and teams. This allows for the ultimate collaboration across the whole company.
Being open to new ideas, flexible and adaptable also comes with a growth mindset as a team. The alternative ideas and approaches can be taken as learning opportunities, allowing your team to move forward as a cohesive unit.
5. Problem-Solving and Creativity
Creativity isn’t only for the “creatives” and is a skill that should be encouraged throughout your team for more effective collaboration. Support each team member to explore more innovative thinking and creative brainstorming without worrying about what might happen (there’s that trust again).
This same creative approach can be applied to collaborative problem-solving through techniques such as drawing connections between competing ideas rather than discarding one in favor of another. Or, taking seemingly separate ideas and seeing how they overlap and can help each other grow.
Just as you should embrace the diversity of skills to boost collaboration, you should also embrace the diversity of ideas among your team. Given the chance and a supportive environment, your team will be able to generate more creative, innovative and effective solutions together than they ever could alone.
6. Conflict Resolution
Conflict resolution is always challenging, but it is a vital collaboration skill for you and your team. To start, approach any conflict in a constructive and respectful manner; you aren’t there to add fuel to the fire or admonish those who may be caught up in it. All team members should take the same approach, whether they are part of or mediating a conflict.
The active listening we mentioned earlier is really important in conflict resolution, and extra care should be given here to ensure you understand the different viewpoints clearly. Ideally, those in conflict will also practice active listening but focus on one skill at a time.
With a reasoned approach and actively trying to understand each viewpoint, you must aim to find a mutually beneficial solution. The same goes for any team member who finds themselves in a conflict situation.
7. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, use, understand, manage, and handle emotions, and is one of the core collaboration skills your team needs. It allows you and your team to empathize with other team members, recognizing when they may need extra support or space.
Moreover, good emotional intelligence allows you and your team to regulate your emotions, creating a more positive work environment and team dynamics. Understanding and managing how you feel – and how you react to those feelings – is vital to avoiding conflict and establishing a secure, safe environment where team collaboration can flourish.
Wrap-Up of the 7 Essential Collaboration Skills to Unify Your Team
You and your team are continuously evolving, changing, and growing, so it’s important that you continue to develop and practice collaboration skills to match. Use these seven essential skills and start unifying your team today:
Practice and foster effective communications
Build trust throughout your company
Make every team member a stakeholder
Be adaptable and flexible
Encourage creative problem solving
Learn to resolve conflicts
Practice emotional intelligence
Building collaboration skills is an ongoing process, but one that is vital to the long-term success of you, your team and your organization as a whole.
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