Throughout human history, it goes uncontested that the only way we, as a species, have achieved the level of socioeconomic, scientific, and technological advancement that we have is due to collaboration. The ability of humans to put their heads together, to solve a problem larger than themselves. It’s even imbued into what is essentially a motto of the United States of America: “united we stand, divided we fall.”
So what is it in humans that drives us to collaborate? Is it that we reluctantly admit we can’t do things on our own, and we require help? Or is it that we know, deep within our heart of hearts, that the beauty in life and in humanity is when we come together for a common purpose and cause? We are not able to answer that question literally, but the commonality throughout history of collaboration among Homo sapiens leads us to think it’s more of an inherent human trait than a learned behavior.
In business, collaboration is essential all throughout an organization. If one arm of the business doesn’t talk to the other, you have what are commonly known as “silos,” in which work gets done by one department, then is clumsily handed off to another department who has no idea what the department before them did. This often results in double-work, unnecessary communication and changes, and overall—a loss of time and therefore profit. In fact, a recent Salesforce report showed that “86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.”
This just goes to show the massive gap in what we should be doing and what we are actually doing. A great deal of business success can be boiled down to “collaboration,” and here are some concrete strategies for facilitating and increasing collaboration on your team.
1. Exemplify and model successful collaboration for your teams.
This may seem obvious, but as a leader, you’re in the fishbowl. Everyone, whether you want to admit it or not, is paying close attention to your every move as a leader. Getting your organization to foster a spirit of collaboration starts with your modeling of good and healthy collaboration, aka leading by example. If your subordinates see you struggling to communicate effectively, or to work well with someone else, they are not getting a good example of collaboration and you need to first work to remedy that within yourself before you seek to rectify the issue in others.
2. Promote the open flow of information.
If you want your team to successfully collaborate, they have to be “in the know.” Make it as simple as possible for everyone to get the information they need, while making sure not to overload anyone with unnecessary information. If people know what they need to know, they’ll do what they need to do well.
3. Provide the right tools.
This is especially relevant for companies struggling with the transition to and/or from co-located work to remote. Messaging platforms, project management softwares, time logging applications—all of these are necessary in today’s highly digital business world, and when used effectively, can skyrocket your team’s collaboration. They have the skills, you just need to fill their toolboxes with things they can use.
While collaboration amongst teams is what most people would consider an intrinsic part of working for a company or organization, that doesn’t mean that the practice of it is as common or as easy as it could be. These tips are mere jumping-off points; truly successful collaborative teams do all of the things mentioned above and more, and they do it every day with consistency. As with anything in business and in life, building a collaborative culture in the workplace starts with you: the leader.