Building Collaborative Teams: 8 Strategies for Success

In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, executing major initiatives requires the power of collaborative teams. Whether it’s integrating a newly acquired firm or overhauling an IT system, these complex teams are essential for handling daunting projects. However, the defining characteristics of these teams – large, virtual, diverse, and specialized – can also hinder their ability to work together effectively. To maximize their potential, it is crucial to establish a solid foundation for collaboration within your organization. This article presents eight strategies that focus on relationship building and cultural change to foster collaboration within complex teams.

Creating a Strong Sense of Community

One of the key practices for encouraging collaboration in complex teams is to create a strong sense of community. By sponsoring events and activities that bring people together and help them get to know one another, you can foster a supportive environment where collaboration naturally flourishes. Additionally, employing informal mentoring and coaching can encourage employees to value interaction with leaders and colleagues.

When executives, HR professionals, and team leaders work together to apply these practices, complex teams hit the ground running from the day they are formed.

What Executives Can Do

Executives play a crucial role in promoting collaboration within complex teams. Here are some strategies they can implement:

Invest in Building and Maintaining Social Relationships

Take a page from Royal Bank of Scotland’s CEO, who commissioned new headquarters designed around an indoor atrium and a “Main Street” concept. This layout encourages employees to rub shoulders daily, fostering collaboration among RBS’s complex teams.

Model Collaborative Behavior

Follow the example of top executives at Standard Chartered Bank, who frequently step in for one another, leading regional celebrations, representing the company at external events, and initiating internal dialogues with employees. By making collaborative behavior visible through extensive travel and shared photos, they set the tone for a collaborative culture.

Use Coaching to Reinforce Collaboration

At Nokia, each new hire’s manager provides a list of individuals in the organization the newcomer should meet. They suggest topics for discussion and explain the importance of establishing these relationships. This coaching approach reinforces a collaborative culture and helps new employees integrate seamlessly into complex teams.

What HR Can Do

Human resources (HR) departments also have a significant role to play in promoting collaboration within complex teams. Here are two strategies they can employ:

Train Employees in Collaboration Skills

Providing training on specific collaboration skills, such as appreciating others, engaging in purposeful conversation, resolving conflicts productively and creatively, and managing programs, can equip employees with the tools they need to collaborate effectively.

Support a Sense of Community

HR can support a sense of community by sponsoring events and activities like networking groups, cooking weekends, or tennis coaching. Additionally, spontaneous and unannounced activities can further foster a spirit of camaraderie and promote collaboration.

What Team Leaders Can Do

Team leaders are instrumental in building collaborative teams. Here are two strategies they can implement:

Ensure Existing Connections

When forming new teams, ensure that at least 20%-40% of the team members already know one another. This pre-existing familiarity helps establish a foundation of trust and collaboration from the outset.

Adapt Leadership Style

As a team develops, leaders should adapt their leadership style accordingly. In the early stages of a project, be task-oriented, clearly articulating the team’s goals and accountabilities. As conflicts inevitably arise, switch focus to relationship building. This flexibility helps maintain a harmonious team dynamic.

Assigning distinct roles within the team allows members to work independently, reducing time spent negotiating responsibilities or protecting turf. However, leaving the path to achieving the team’s goal somewhat ambiguous encourages members to invest time and energy in collaborating, leveraging their diverse expertise and skills.

Building collaborative teams is essential in today’s complex business environment. By implementing these strategies and fostering a culture of collaboration, organizations can unleash the full potential of their teams, leading to more successful outcomes and a thriving work environment.

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