Three Simple Steps to Spark Quality Teamwork in Your Organisation
“Collaboration allows teachers to capture each other's fund of collective intelligence." -Mike Schmoker
While researching this piece, I found a number of quotes that fit the bill perfectly, but none more so than Mike Schmoker’s quote I’ve listed above. While the wording - teachers - might not be exactly right in the context of this piece, it’s not hard to recontextualise it into your personal and professional sphere to see how the organisation as a whole is the benefactor of collaborative efforts from the team as a whole. It would be foolish to think that the contributions of one person in the organisation outweighs the end result of a productive, focussed and cooperative collective.
In my time as a CEO and consultant working alongside hundreds of organisations here in Australia and across the globe, I’m yet to see one exception to the rule. While yes, there are some extremely talented specialists out there that would prefer to be left alone, this is usually the result of personal preference and even ego sinking into their work practices. The reality I’ve found is that no matter how talented that one person is, there's always something they don't know or need someone else's help with.
Regardless of the stature of the organisation and their management style, collaboration is an essential prerequisite to succeeding in the world of business. Some of the world’s leading tech companies divide into teams of a dozen or so, or even smaller for specialist tasks- they play off each other’s strengths, and - hopefully - admit to their weaknesses. It’s a shame to see the number of people that bite their tongues when it comes to this, yet understandable at the same time. The reality for the organisation as a whole, however, is that there’s a huge benefit to the end result if people are quick to admit their flaws, rather than persevere and often waste time on something that will have to be re-done.
‘It would be foolish to think that the contribution of one person outweighs the end result of a productive, focussed and cooperative collective.’- Kobi Simmat
As you’ll discover, some of the strategies require some initiative on the part of the employee, while other strategies are directly addressing leadership styles in the workplace. This might be difficult for those of you reading this working in quite a rigid, structured working environment, however it’s hard to deny the value in trying new things. Let’s jump in.
Too often, attendance to meetings is a privilege awarded to senior executives only. This might be appropriate in some of your high-stakes and often confidential management review sessions, but if it’s a discussion surrounding a project or the future direction of the organisation, I’m a firm believer that getting as many voices in the choir will give you a better sound. Think of it this way: management and executives are knowledgeable, but they often work in a vacuum that doesn’t allow them insight into the every day, nitty-gritty aspects of your operations. They might not on a first-name basis with some of your most valuable clients, or understand the pain-points that this organisation feels on a daily basis, therefore, your organisation would benefit from a grass-roots and ground-up approach to understanding its reach and impact on the people it serves.
Once you’ve got more inclusive meetings in your organisation, you also begin to empower those people that were previously relegated to sitting outside, and this has a raft of benefits for your organsiation. If you can empower your staff, you’ll spark a positive psychological change in their mind and often see their results become more pointed in respect to the task they’re assigned, as they know that at the next meeting, they’ll more than likely have to speak out loud. You don’t want to over-burden your staff with tasks and responsibilities, but a healthy amount of expectation and pressure in the workplace can lead ordinary people to come up with extraordinary results.
Some of the most frustrating leadership styles I’ve come into contact with take a pretty strange approach, but I’m beginning to think it’s the result of a lack of focus and planning rather than a witting decision. People need an end of the figurative tunnel to keep their results and motivation of a high standard- it’s how our brains are wired, that’s why at Best Practice, we map out our goals and post them up in a visible spot for each division to keep an eye on. Our marketing team, for instance, is driving a push on social media, so very soon after establishing this goal and some of the KPIs around their target, their goal was plastered near their desks.
While on the surface it seems like a bit of a tyrannical move, it’s actually a psychological strategy to keep the team moving in the same direction- together. We have a weekly check-in session to see how they’re tracking toward the goal, and what strategies look as though they’re working and which ones aren’t. What I’m looking to see is people within that division lean on eachother to achieve the goal and hit their target. More than often, it’s an impossible task for just one person, but in a collaborative effort, however, it becomes possible. While implicit at first, a focus on your organisation’s targets and goal-setting will hopefully see your team start to rely on one another more often, which in theory is the bed-rock of building up a positive working environment in which people congregate and produce amazing results.
Celebrate the wins, learn from the losses.
I mentioned this point in yesterday’s article that focussed on the common mistakes of organsiations in the holiday season which you can access here, but it’s a valid point that warrants explaining in a different context. More often than not, the content already out there on building teamwork talks about socialising and team-building activities. I believe, however, that while these can be effective in building rapport for some in your organisation, it can also isolate others. If an activity appears to be contrived and little more than a superficial attempt from the management to force people that don’t communicate much in the workplace to become friends, some individuals gravitate away from this transparent activity. Instead, you can engage those people in the workplace in a different way by keeping celebrations related to their efforts on a recent project. Having a staff party once a year won’t get you the same reception that more frequent celebrations of hitting targets and winning new clients will- I guarantee you.
The same goes when we’re talking about when things go south- when you haven’t hit your quarterly targets and something in the organisation needs an intervention of some sort. If you have an inclusive meeting and empower your staff to speak up, raise their concerns and propose possible solutions to a problem, you can turn a negative situation into a positive learning and team-building experience for the organisation. As we mentioned in the context of leaders, it’s an impossible feat to understand every aspect of your organisation, so getting as many voices into the conversation is of net benefit to the business as a whole. One of the most valuable team-building experiences you’ll have as an organisation is identifying a negative trend or result and successfully turning this around; it’s an immensely pleasurable experience for everyone involved. Don’t shy away from it- use it as a learning experience that has the potential to completely transform the collaborative skills and morale for everyone in the organisation.
Thanks again, and I’ll see you in the next piece.