Man is not an island. A social species of animal, we work best in groups, and tend towards organization. Even Stone Age and hunter-gatherer societies develop specialists, leaders, and some kind of division of labor. The reasons for this are rather simple; if you have one person who is better at tanning hides than the person who’s really good at trapping small game, then why not just have them keep doing what they are good at? When it all comes down to it, that’s how humanity has functioned since time immemorial. But when problems and stagnation begin to fester in this basic system, your specialized individuals may no longer talk to each other and cease to work together to create something new or innovative. So how can your organization prevent stagnation and promote collaboration?
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1. Trust Your Team
Trust is a fundamental part of teamwork in general. If you for any reason think a member of your team can’t or won’t do their job properly, you need to address that issue, and perhaps even evaluate if your distrust is sincerely deserved. Distrust in a team can manifest in many different ways, but one of the most destructive to collaboration is micromanagement. If you don’t give people on your team a chance to do things their way, you close off any chance at innovation that might be born from them.
A large component in the avoidance of micromanagement comes in when discussing time management. If you have a team with a record of timeliness that rarely misses a deadline, consider allowing them to manage their own time with only the deadline given. If they feel overwhelmed, they can come to you then, but in the meantime, trust that they are spending their time as they see necessary to complete their work.
By backing off a little bit, you can give other people in your team the chance to grow and step up. By creating this vacuum, you provide an opportunity to really see what people are capable of doing and what they can come up with.
2. Get Rid of Silos
What do you get when you combine the mind of a trainer together with the ideas from somebody in production? Well, you’ll never know unless those two people have a rapport with each other and can brainstorm together. Mixing and matching people from different departments and backgrounds promotes diversity of thought, and can bring about new and interesting ideas.
Basically, allow freedom of communication between departments. The opposite of this, a department or team where one individual controls or monitors the flow of communication is often referred to as a “silo,” a deep, narrow hole from which it is difficult to escape except past the gatekeeper.
If you seek to encourage collaboration, this means breaking down the silos, and removing the gatekeepers within a team or department.
3. Encourage Conversations, Even When They Seem Unrelated to Work
At the watering hole, people might come up with something wacky they want to share. When these random ideas come about, listen. Sometimes a dud of an idea will come up, but you don’t want people to stop trying. Give direction on how to better an idea or where to go with something. Negating an idea that two or more people may have come up with creates negative feedback and discourages that kind of collaboration.
But here’s the thing. To get these ideas, the good, the bad, and all the stuff in between, you have to let conversations happen—even when they don’t seem related to work. Human beings are a complicated species, and as anyone knows, sometimes we need mental breaks from our work. But here’s the funny thing about that: often in those moments when we are taking a break and relax is when we have the breakthrough moment.
In creating a culture that promotes collaboration, there needs to be tolerance towards chitchat. If you are someone who gets distracted easily and tends to prefer silence in the workplace, do your team and your work a big favor, and try wearing some headphones to drown out noise when necessary. It will help you focus, and it will open up the channels of communication between colleagues needed to create a collaborative environment.
Culture in most organizations takes its cues from its leaders. If you seek a more collaborative environment for your team, it doesn’t just magically happen. These tips can bring about a more collaborative culture where your team and your colleagues will more regularly seek to work together for the better of their work and the organization at large.
CATMEDIA works with organizations by directing training resources to gap areas, resulting in improved overall productivity and greater effectiveness in mission critical tasks. Find out how we can work with you to improve your company culture here!
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CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
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