One of the main attributes to personal or organisational success is to know how to foster collaboration between teams and in workplaces. When it comes to thriving in today’s fast-changing, interconnected world, competing and outperforming others drives many of our endeavours. Competition is more or less everywhere in work, personal or professional life situations, academics, career, so on and so forth. By competing and comparing ourselves with one another, we strive to improve and earn success.
But competition not only spreads self-doubt, but also makes one dependent on external sources of validation and thus can lead to hostility and greed, both of which are major obstacles when it comes to individual or organisational progress. Whereas we achieve our highest levels of productivity only when we work together as a team. Even those who perceive themselves as independent or individualists, their success is often because of supporting environment they surround themselves with, people they trust and support.
“The ratio of We’s to I’s is the best indicator of the development of a team.” —Lewis B.ErgenTweet
Collaboration vs competition
Collaboration is where a group of people work together towards a common goal or a shared purpose. When people collaborate, they share skills in an effort to increase the chances of success instead of working on their own priorities and interests. It involves including people in making decisions, in establishing processes and to implement them in best way possible to maximise collective outcomes instead of maximising the difference with others as competition does. Collaboration is different from teamwork, because it can be also between different teams and individuals for a shared purpose or goal.
Even though competition can motivate and increase one’s effort, it can affect negatively by eliciting a sense of fear, anxiety and being pressured in unhealthy ways. Whereas when a group of people share their skills and ideas to achieve a common goal together, it results in being efficient in its endeavours to solve problems, achieving challenging objectives and to overcome difficult obstacles.
Why is it important?
Since remote working has become new normal for many, collaboration has become more important than ever to improve overall productivity, morale and efficiency of people you work with. It has become paramount to keep everyone updated, aligned and connected with others and to the organisational goals. Encouraging cooperation and promoting collaboration is not only an important leadership competence but is also essential for lasting individual and organisational achievement in times of change and uncertainty.
Culture of collaboration creates opportunities for everyone to move forward and to use all available resources/skills to reach wider goals and raises everyone’s motivation towards achieving better outcomes. Apart from boosting morale, encourage employee engagement, increased efficiency, collaboration further leads to improved
- Performance. Since every member has different skills, expertise and talent, when they collaborate together they are able to utilise the experience, knowledge and skills of everyone involved to achieve a shared goal that results in increased performance and productivity.
- Quick outcomes. It helps in achieving faster results as everyone on the team combine their strengths and expertise to get things done. Shared knowledge helps them resolve problems quickly as ever is able to employ their unique skills.
- Problem-solving. It becomes a lot more easier to overcome roadblocks or obstacles when you collaborate with others rather than solving independently. When a group of people form a pool of shared skills and knowledge, they are better equipped with right tools and techniques to problem-solve.
- Learning. Different skill sets, experience and backgrounds create a viable learning environment to everyone involved. This can be asking for feedback, opinions, approaches to problems or to gain a better sense of how everyone works. Collaborating with other team members or individuals or even different teams is a good learning experience if one can make most of it.
- Communication. Collaboration presents opportunities to find new and effective ways to communicate and opens up other channels of communication that would otherwise remain closed. Brainstorming and exchange of ideas and information leads to overall efficiency of workplaces’ and organisational success.
How to foster collaboration
When people work separately in competition instead of working towards a common goal, it leads to poor outcomes, decisions and ineffective work environments. It is predominantly difficult to progress without good cooperation or collaborative work environment. Many people may say they work towards more collaborative environments in their organisations, but many don’t realise how often their own actions unknowingly create barriers that hinder collaborative efforts of their people.
Also, making it as an yearly endeavour only makes employees return to competitive work norms as soon as they are in normal working circumstances. Here are some practices to make collaboration as part of your everyday work culture.
Communicate clearly and effectively.
Effective communication is the key to creating collaborative environments as it eliminates misinterpretation and misunderstandings between teams or individuals who work towards a shared goal or purpose. Since in-person communication is not viable in today’s remote work environments, it is important to communicate what to expect from one another at the start of a new project, or when implementing a new process or change, or coming up with an action plan to address a crisis.
Many times conflicts occur when people compete with each other operating from different perspectives of what they should be expected to do. The lack of communication regarding what one is expected to do makes it difficult for everyone in the team to accept responsibility for what needed to be done. So, whether it is about focusing on an end goal or what measures or steps should be taken, or about the nature of the work, it is important to communicate it and establish early in the process. Here are some more aspects of collaborative communication.
- Listening. When was the last time you gave someone your undivided attention? Intent listening is one of the ways to build collaboration environment. Active listening includes listening to feedback, to have a discussion and involves responding to problems in real time. It also involves listening to one another to make sure that everyone gets their say. Acknowledging what others say makes them feel heard and valued.
- Be transparent. The most important thing in collaborating with one another is not about titles and roles, but in focusing on solutions and delivering workable solutions and outcomes regardless who is finding or doing. Lack of transparency is one of the reasons behind low morale, lack of engagement, trust and enthusiasm.
- Show appreciation. Another key trait of fostering cooperation is constant recognition and appreciation. Making appreciation an integral part of your everyday interactions, giving credit when needed and recognising and praising individual efforts fosters a supporting working environment.
- Practice openness. Being open and receptive to ideas and input from others, suggestions, appreciative of diverse opinions is crucial to improve collaborative communication. When ideas or solutions are proposed, instead of fixating yourself on negatives, try to view them from various angles. Asking yourself, How the proposed idea is better than yours helps you see them more clearly. Perhaps the idea may not be as bad as you think.
- Clarity. Going that extra mile to make sure you are clear in communicating clear goals, and objectives helps everyone aware of what is expected from them and how to work along towards common goals. If others aren’t able to articulate their ideas well enough, make an effort to understand them, may be there could be some reason for their lack of clarity. Even if you are refusing or rejecting an idea, explaining why it won’t work goes long way in creating collaborative environment.
Be part of the working process
Assumptions or challenges faced have the power to disrupt one’s ability and willingness to share resources and combined efforts. While it is necessary to ensure that you communicate shared purpose and common goals, it is also vital not to to jump to the conclusion that everyone will work being on the same page along the way or do things for the same reason as you do, specifically, if you are managing or leading a group of people. Also, people may not get along if one or more people feel like they cannot trust or feel like other person is trying to bring them down. That is why it is important to ensure you gain understanding of how people get along, work, any obstacles or challenges they face by being part of the working process and model the teamwork yourself.
People who are comfortable with each other, communicate easily and are able to work collaboratively. If someone is not able to get along, examine the work processes they mutually own, be available to answer questions, address difficulties, and mentor them. Having clear mechanisms and systems in place to address their concerns creates more opportunities to work together. Create opportunities for employees to get to know each other and develop relationships that will support their work. This also increases shared responsibility so one avoids assumptions about what is behind the actions and choices of those they collaborate with.
Value contribution over competition
When you work towards a particular objective or a vision, it is natural that you would want the whole plan mapped out as to how to go about achieving the desired goal, which path to take and so on, leaving it to simply to implement. But to promote collaboration, is not only communicate or brainstorm new ideas or concepts, but to create freedom to apply their ideas in real time.
- Provide opportunities. When it comes to certain things, instead of laying out all the steps involved and how to go about attaining them, creating intentional gaps or opportunities allows others to make their own initiatives and contributions to the process. Allowing others to use their talents, insights, perspectives and creativity to help shape the process makes them feel included and part of the overall success and achievement of a vision or an work initiative.
- Emphasise value of collaboration. Hiring people or assessing one’s ability to work together, talking about value of cooperation during training and onboard activities or including teamwork as one of the key values builds collaborative culture in workplaces. Communicating that collaborative communication is expected in their interactions and including team building activities to improve internal communication helps everyone to function from a place of collaboration rather than from competition.
- Reward and recognise. Even though rewards and recognition encourage competition, they create collaborative practices as much as individual contribution and achievement. Rewarding group effort for their achievements, rather than individuals encourages employees to learn from one another and to work together rather than compete.
Are you collaborative or competitive in your efforts while working with others?
How open are you to communicating your thoughts, ideas or insights in achieving a common goal?
Do you view your ideas and perspectives superior to those of others’ in a team or a group? (Or ) Do you try to find ways in which others’ ideas are superior to your proposed ideas?
Do you believe in team effort or individual effort when it comes to a shared vision?
How often do you recognise and reward others’ efforts ?
How often do you help your teams to overcome challenges or obstacles?
Those who move towards success tend to focus on more of competence rather than collaboration. But we achieve our highest levels of productivity only when we collaborate and work with others. By collaborating, groups or teams achieve what individuals cannot. Also, encouraging a cooperative environment and to work with others takes more than just putting people on teams or telling them to work together. It is essential to make it a valued part of your daily interactions and work culture. Keep building theses collaborative skills into your repertoire in order to be more successful while towards a shared purpose.