In this article in Talent Management, management expert Thomas Handcock, gives an interesting take on what I think gets to the root of better teamwork skills—“getting work done today requires more collaboration among a broader and more diverse set of people.” Collaboration is imperative for better teamwork and a more productive workplace.
The fact that collaboration is a foundation of better teamwork may not seem provocative, but it’s what goes into collaboration that makes the difference between teams who simply get along and teams who perform at higher level. The essence of collaboration is an activation of differences, ideas, expertise and perspectives. Teamwork in today’s more networked workplace means harnessing differences in a new way, because highly diverse workforces are the new norm.
It’s a more complex work environment with greater human capital consequences—CEB research reported that 60% of employees report working with ten or more people each day. More than likely, those relationships encompassed more than one team with more than one manager to report to. How can you better harness collaboration to gain better teamwork skills? Well, it depends on your role in the organization.
Individual Contributors or Team Members: If you’re an “individual contributor,” first you can throw out that term…truly you are a team member since nearly all work today requires collaboration. What you can do is:
- Be Self-Aware: Know how you’re coming across to those with whom you’re collaborating. Do you tend to put forth big ideas? Harness that, but think through what other aspects your team may need to know, like the reasoning behind your idea or whose help you’ll need to get it done.
- Be Open: If you’re in a collaborative work environment, you need to be open to collaboration. Don’t assume that just because you can do something yourself, you should. Think through how others can help you get things done more efficiently or with greater creativity.
- Actions Speak Louder than Words: If you make a commitment, keep it. Trust is absolutely critical to building teamwork skills. As the great Stephen M.R. Covey states, “Low trust is the greatest cost in life and organizations.” But know that trust means different things to different people, so when you’re working with a diverse team, actively seek out how people define a high trust environment.
Learning and Development Leaders and Trainers: You are the driving force behind building better teamwork skills and creating stronger organizations. If you’re not stoking effective collaboration, then you aren’t doing your job. As an HR leader or talent management professional you can:
- Drive collaboration in new ways: Traditional classroom training is just the start, but the workforce is collaborating more often and more quickly. Therefore, imparting skills in collaboration—communication skills, empathy, innovation—means doing so via on-demand channels like social, mobile and e-learning.
- Make collaboration a competency: Collaboration isn’t just a nice to have or something intangible. Collaboration can be taught and measured, but it starts with conveying the end goals—why do teams need to collaborate? It is the connection into tangible, goal-oriented and business objective driven elements that allow employees to see collaboration as a core part of their job.
- Know your employee base: Do you know how cognitively diverse your employees are? Do you have clear ways to ensure employees can really understand where each member of their team(s) are coming from? As talent management professionals, if you know who your individual contributors are—how they work, how they act and think, you can place them into teams with more purpose and utilize the intangibles, like creative tension and differing strengths.
No matter your role in an organization, collaboration is one core way to drive better teamwork skills.