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Collaboration is a key factor in building a small business because it works. People thrive in environments which free them to communicate and work together. When the company environment is focused on collaboration, team members naturally feel a part of something bigger than themselves. The best way to transition from an individual to a collaborative mindset is to equip each team member for active participation in the group dynamic.
Here are 10 simply ways to cultivate team cohesion:
1. Create a clear and compelling cause.
To create a cohesion, team members must be provided with a convincing reason to be a part of the company mission. The more compelling and exciting the mission, the easier it is to inspire team members to want to be a part of what the company aspires to accomplish. When they are given a clear and gripping cause to be involved with, team members naturally become as passionate about the goals and objectives as their leaders. If team members do not care or are unclear about the goals and objectives presented to them, they will find all kinds of reasons not to work together. For collaboration to work, the vision and purpose must be clear.
2. Communicate expectations.
Collaboration must be communicated to team members as the minimum standard. To foster this, team members must be provided with defined individual and collective roles and responsibilities they will hold within the team. When they have a clear understanding of their position, each team member will work more effectively and without accidentally stepping on another person’s toes creating unforeseen conflicts. In a collaborative environment, each team member experiences what it means to take part in the shared responsibility of results. With this type of focus, what starts out as a goal becomes a crusade with the experience of success changing from an individual achievement into a bonded group experience building comrade and morale.
3. Establish team goals.
To drive success in team members it’s important to set measurable goals for each on a quarterly basis. The purpose of these goals is to provide team members with achievable wins. These wins have a magical way of breaking down barriers and creating positive momentum individually and collectively. Further, it’s imperative to re-evaluate goals and redirect whenever necessary. At each quarter’s end, the outcomes of quarterly goals must be made available to the whole team as a way to measure and celebrate progress, and to determine where improvements need to be made. Working with this type of transparency decreases confusion, finger-pointing and the disintegration of team cohesion.
4. Leverage team-member strengths.
To empower each team member, it is a great strategy to work with their strengths rather than working around their weaknesses. It is a good idea to have each member take a personality test such as the Myers-Briggs, and hold a team roundtable to share results. This is a great bonding exercise because the results allow each person to get to know themselves and their team members in a much deeper way. It also gives team members information about who to go to and for what based upon each person’s individual strengths. When teams are connected in this way, each member is set up for success because they are each assigned tasks that play to their respective strengths.
5. Foster cohesion between team members.
Cohesive teams are more successful. They are successful because each person on the team is included in as many large decisions as possible. When team members feel this type of inclusion, they feel the perceived significance of their role, causing them to naturally perform better. To be the most effective, teams should to participate in daily huddles where each member discusses their goals and objectives for day. This helps to avoid duplication of effort and competition between team members. These huddles keep everyone on the same playbook and enables team members to re-direct their efforts as needed.
6. Encourage innovation.
For teams to grow they must be encouraged to brainstorm and question the status quo in an open and non-judgmental environment. Team members must be coached and led to believe the challenges and obstacles they face can and will be overcome. When a “can-do” attitude is instilled it motivates team members to live up to those “can-do” expectations. It is also important to ask team members for their thoughts, their reasoning and ideas on a regular basis. The more connected and understood they feel to their manager or leader, the more motivated they will be to perform, impress, be creative and to exceed expectations.
7. Keep promises and honor requests.
Most requests and promises are held sacred within a team, but considered optional between other company units or customers. Taking a request from a customer seriously and demonstrating that the team is working to do what they say they are going to do, goes a long way towards building trust and blurring boundaries. The question every customer and every business unit asks of another is, can I count on you? Will you be there when I need you? Do you care about this as much as we do? When team members and customers feel they can depend upon you and your team to deliver what they expect, business grows, relationships grow as does revenue.
9. Encourage people to socialize outside of work.
We all lead busy personal lives and the thought of having one more corporate event we are obligated to attend can add stress. However, socializing with co-workers outside the office is an effective way to open channels of communication, to create a better understanding and break down any walls of pre-judgemental or mistrust between team members. When team members learn they share common interests or wrestle with some of the same challenges outside of work as others, they experience their team members as more real, which helps to decrease individual bias, stereotyping and false objectifying. When we see our team members as human, it makes it more difficult to point the finger at them.
10. Recognize, reward and celebrate collaborative behavior.
The legends of athletic dynasties or standout corporate successes consist of incredible collaborative efforts. Team members often sit in conversation reminiscing over how it all came together. Whether shared through video, newsletter, podcast, annual report or seminar, stories of great collaboration break down the walls of individualism and honor the collective accomplishment. Attaching performance rewards and bonuses to collaborative efforts sends the right message to team members about the values that are driving the business.
Establishing a collaborative environment is just the beginning of a more successful venture. For collaboration to work it must be consistent and purposeful, with resources and rewards dedicated to its success. You may have many standout successes in your company already; but you can increase your productivity exponentially by getting them to work as a collaborative team. When team members feel they are a part of something exceptional they are more than willing to work together to get the ball across the goal line. Collaboration works because there is nothing more meaningful, bonding or growth promoting than a shared win.
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