How to Create a Collaborative Culture with Your Team

ProjectManager.com

The myth of the lone genius is just that, a myth. Nothing is done in a vacuum. It takes collaboration to create innovation. Of course, that means good collaboration, which includes transparency, high-performing teams and the right tools to help your resources reach their goals, quickly and relevant to the marketplace.

When your team learns how to properly collaborate on projects, it will speed up project delivery, minimize project risk and develop more successful projects to end users. First, let’s dispel some of the more common myths about collaboration.

Collaboration Mythology

If your business has been slow to adopt a collaborative mindset and the software tools that support it, this might be because the organizational culture holds some outdated beliefs about collaboration. Because the word “collaboration” has become buzz-worthy, some execs mistakenly believe it is a passing phase. Likewise, since collaboration implies social tools or fuzzy approaches to work like brainstorming or ideation, other execs think collaboration is just a trendy byproduct of millennial culture. If this mindset is familiar to you, use this list of the 25 best quotes about teamwork to illustrate the importance of collaboration.

CMS Wire recently interviewed several executive leaders and asked them directly how they build cultures of collaboration, a demonstration of how some leaders dispel the collaboration as fad notion. Cisco also produced an interesting study to reveal differing modes of collaboration preferences, revealing collaboration “enthusiasts” versus “laggards”. See our infographic below for how to spot those types on your team and read on to learn the following myths about collaboration and how to spot them in your org.

Myth 1: System meltdown

What are you doing, Dave? That cool robotic voice in 2001: A Space Odyssey is alive and well in our consciousness. There is a real fear that implementing a new collaboration tool will break your system, or is “too hard” to integrate with existing tools.

First, it’s almost impossible to break your IT systems by sharing data or uploading files or even integrating a new API. At worst, your IT department has some extra work to do. At best, you’ll integrate powerful new project tools that are cloud-based and that can support your increasingly mobile team. Don’t let fear of change within the org disrupt real progress. Simply ensure everyone knows how to use the tools available with proper training.

Myth 2. Productivity will suffer. 

Did you chat to someone today about non-work subjects while you were on the phone or in the office kitchen? You probably didn’t see that as a waste of time. That chatter is fundamental for building trusting relationships. Allow (even encourage) open conversation.

Myth 3. Knowledge is priceless.

Some people don’t share data because they think keeping information to themselves makes them indispensable. If you ask their colleagues, however, they won’t use the word “indispensable” to describe them. Rather, “obstructive” or “difficult to work with” are more common terms. Sharing information, collaborating and generally being a good team player is the fastest way to increase your social standing at work. Build a reputation for being helpful, not a hindrance, or you’ll find yourself increasingly irrelevant. Promote free exchange of ideas and knowledge at every meeting, not just behind closed doors.

Myth 4. Confidentiality trumps collaboration.

Having the tools in place to support online collaboration won’t mean that your company’s secrets are shared in public by default. Software tools have strong security measures in place and often bank-level data protection.

However, the line between your own employees and contractors or trusted third parties can be blurry. Use your technology to keep company-confidential stuff in-house and make sure your teams know what is appropriate for sharing with vendors and consultants. Promote guidelines and codes of practice to ensure everyone knows what is confidential and what is in the public domain.

create a culture of collaboration

Newsflash: Collaboration is already happening all around you.

Come out of your virtual cubicle and look around. Whether your organization allows it or not (rules are being broken!), people on your team are using 3rd party apps and mobile tools to support collaboration. These people are your early adopters and they are your friend! This is how to spot them.

  • They are document-sharing.
    Team members upload documents to Google Drive or even a dusty internal shared online storage system. They draft documents together, creating a collaborative end product that contains comments and suggestions from all the stakeholders. Then the final version is published online where it can be accessed by the whole team. Find out what tools they’re using so everyone else an easily find the latest version of any document with just a few clicks.
  • They are always mobile.
    Team members are constantly online. They use apps designed for smartphones and tablets that sync data back to the systems they use on their laptops.
  • They use real-time project tools (without you).
    Some savvy colleagues are using tools to track real-time project data or other collaborative tools to be more efficient. Find out what tools your team is using independent of the project and see what you can learn from their use.
  • They appear to be… happy.
    Collaboration tools can be used to keep your team motivated. At ProjectManager.com, where our teams literally span the globe from Austin, TX, to Auckland, NZ, we share viral cat memes, status updates and relevant project news to create a shared team experience. Don’t shut down vital social experiences with your team. Encourage it. It’s good for team building and, as we learned with myth #2, it’s not going to kill productivity.

How to create a culture of collaboration starting… now!

When you find evidence of collaboration in your teams, embrace it. Then look to foster that same culture in the teams that aren’t as good at sharing. The following tips also help:

Provide the right online tools

Forbes conducted an interesting study with global executives and their opinions on the impact of cloud collaboration tools on productivity. A whopping 82% of the executives believed that these tools supported efficiency, and 93% say such tools foster innovation. Follow these trends if you want to stay competitive and relevant in your industry.

Collaborative teams are highly connected and expect online access both to the tools they need to do their jobs, such as project management software apps and also to the tools they use to run their personal lives. Don’t block access to social networks like Slack or Twitter. Trust their judgement (and use your managerial skills to manage their time effectively and deal with poor performers).

Allow time for sharing

Collaborative working isn’t as fast as one person making a decision and everyone else falling in line. But it will get you better results. Allow time in the working day for people to collaborate through sharing.

Set policies for sharing sensitive data

Online working doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Employees who are new to the world of work and those with more experience of office life but less experience online will benefit from clear guidance around what is appropriate to share. Make sure to share those frequently and don’t just assume HR has it covered. Reinforce your team’s best practices at mid-year meetings and with all new hires.

Offer training

Lindsay Scott, founder of Arras People, a UK-based project management recruitment firm, and the founder of PMO FlashMob, writes about the role of the PMO in fostering collaboration. She notes that the PMO can promote mentoring programs for effective learning and knowledge transfer. Or, if you think that your teams don’t have the skills to collaborate or communicate effectively, offer them some training. While you are evaluating tools and updating your technology, you can be working on building a culture of collaboration. Changing behavior is just as important as changing the software you use.

Build trust

It tends to take longer to build trust in virtual teams, so think of ways you can speed that up to get the best results from collaborating. Keith Ferrazzi, in an article for HBR, talks about two ways you can fast-track trust (what he calls “swift trust”) with virtual teams:

  • Celebrate the skills of the different team members – this helps others see that they are skilled and recognized for their achievements and therefore worthy of your trust.
  • Set clear goals – this ensures everyone has a common view of the objectives and knows what they are trying to achieve.

Show respect

Collaboration is all about sharing ideas and soliciting information from other people, including people more junior than you. Respect their time and their ideas, even if you don’t agree with the suggestions they have put forward. People will soon stop collaborating if their contributions are dismissed and they don’t feel as if they have been listened to.

When someone goes out of their way to share information with you that helps you get something done, take time out of your day to say thank you and share the efforts of that individual with the team.

Listen

Encourage everyone in the organization to listen more effectively. Listen to the suggestions put forward during collaborative working and also to the suggestions for how to improve collaborative working. When it comes to knowing what’s best, assume that those who live and breathe online sharing know what they are talking about!

You may not be able to implement all of their ideas but acknowledge every suggestion and act on those that you can. Strengthen the collaboration culture in your business and you’ll start to see results in better project delivery and higher team morale.

Collaboration thrives when you have right tools. ProjectManager.com offers a powerful online software suite of features that enables resources to share files, chat at the task-level and provide real-time status updates. Whether your team is in-house or remote, they can collaborate effectively. Take a free trial of ProjectManager.com today.

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