How to Get Better at Managing Collaborative Teams

Managing Collaborative Teams

Teamwork is the rallying cry of most businesses, and for good reason. When teams don’t work well together, productivity suffers.

A 2011 survey of both executives and employees indicated that close to 86% of respondents felt business failures could be blamed on lack of collaboration or poor communication in teams.

But team collaboration can take some tending to get right, so whether you’re on a team or leading one, you can benefit from sharpening your saw on team dynamics…and collaboration pitfalls. We’re here to help!

This week we round up some of the best articles on managing collaborative teams. We begin with an article that focuses on clarifying rules and standards for team interaction, and follow that up with several articles of best practices gleaned from high-performing teams and team leaders. We end our roundup with how collaboration works in a unique environment: one with no boss.

Great teamwork takes trust, intentional goal-setting and balance. These articles show you how to make that happen.

Rules of Engagement

Even when teams are eager to work together, there’s still work to be done up front. Harmonizing styles and settling on standards should be a necessary and deliberate step, says Mary Shapiro, executive trainer and professor at Simmons College.

In her article Help Your Team Agree on How They’ll Collaborate for Harvard Business Review, she advises that leaders work to establish rules of engagement before a project even begins.

In an article full of excellent insight, one piece of advice stands out: Shapiro’s idea of a “cultural audit” — canvassing team members for existing expectations on things like meeting start times and handling Q&A’s during presentations.

Performing this audit is especially helpful when new teams are blended with members from different areas of the business (such as marketing and engineering).

Her lessons are especially apt for managers working on resolving communication or collaboration challenges. They also provides a valuable charter with which to build a new team that works together smoothly and productively. And what leader doesn’t want that?

Learning From Teams

High-performing teams have mastered the art of collaboration, so we can look to them for lessons and best practices, says writer Kristi Hines in an article for our own Redbooth blog.

In What Truly Collaborative Teams Already Know,” Hines lays out five of those best practices. Not surprisingly, the most productive teams have well-defined rules of engagement, and enjoy consensus on norms such as communication frequency and decision-making styles.

It’s also clear that these teams prioritize relationships with each other — finding ways to share non-work interests with each other builds a level of trust that appears to help smooth out the challenges that all teams face when crunch time hits.

Modeling the best teams can make your team own more collaborative. How many best practices does your team follow?

Learning From Leaders

This summer’s two-day 99U Conference featured business owners and executives sharing advice about creating a culture of collaboration with their teams.

How to Fuel Collaboration and Innovation,” by reporter Tanner Christensen, is a recap that’s chock-full of lessons from three executives who took the main stage.

What does it take to manage fast-scale growth? Wil Reynolds, founder of Seer Interactive, offers three “virtues” he’s relied on, including an quick but eye-opening anecdote on the role of preparation in innovation. It’s the vital-yet-missing element to the inspiration/perspiration equation for innovation.

Managing a team? Author Heidi Grant Halvorson describes three “lenses of perception” we can utilize to help make sure others understand our intentions as we manage and lead. She offers tips for navigating power and ego, and for cultivating a shared sense of purpose so that individual success is shared instead interpreted as threatening.

Clive Wilkinson, owner of his own architect firm, concludes that if innovation is the goal, then collaboration isn’t enough on its own — we must create a work environment that truly encourages experimentation (and, if possible more windows than walls in the office).

All together, these are fresh takes on how collaborative cultures are both nurtured and managed. Which ones can you use with your team?

Reflecting on Your Team Members

Do high-performing team members guarantee a high-performing team? Fast Company columnist Stephanie Vozza doesn’t think so.

In How to Create an Environment of Collaboration,” she digs into the research to see how a team with a low-performer — or a team full of aces — can hijack success. The result is six lessons for cultivating a team environment that works to balance team member contributions and maximize team outputs.

The advice ranges from choosing members carefully at the outset to managing how praise and accolades are distributed after team goals are met.

Vozza’s collection of tips returns often to the notion that a team is collection of individuals who must be motivated, rewarded and compensated — as individuals.

Respecting the individual contribution — whether it affects the team positively or negatively — makes good sense for leaders. Vozza’s article offers a needed perspective that is often missed.

Collaboration in a Flat Organization

We end with an interesting look at collaboration in a flat organization by Chloe Waretini, ambassador for Enspiral, an explicitly decentralized network of entrepreneurs who work collaboratively on social change.

Based on her experience, Waretini lists 10 Ways to Make Groups Work Better,” a collection of five principles and five practices for better team collaboration.

The five principles focus on cultural attitudes and individual mindsets that serve to benefit the team as a whole.

For instance, high-performing teams actually welcome dissent as process that strengths results, and in that light, view compromises as unneeded shortcuts that may weaken the endproduct.

The five practices are infinitely practical, and focus on structuring team meetings and handling team discussions deftly.

Last on her list: a team-improvement technique that’s easy to implement, empowers all members to take responsibility for improving team collaboration, and gets dramatic results. Waretini says, “[It’s the] fastest practice I know to dramatically improve the quality of conversation.”

Warentini’s experience with a “boss-less team” has lessons for all of us looking to increase team collaboration, satisfaction and productivity.

See how you can improve team collaboration, productivity, and accountability with Redbooth. Find out more >>