Creating a Collaborative Work Environment
Group projects; we’ve all had them, but that doesn’t mean we all like them. There are generally two schools of thought surrounding collaborative projects. Some love them, whereas others feel as if they are acting out a scene from Game of Thrones. While team-style working is not something readily preferable for everyone, skilled and adept leaders can hone in on the culture of teamwork and collaboration in the workplace.
We all come from different backgrounds, giving us experiences that shape our perceptions. This means that everyone approaches the same challenge from a different vantage point. Leaders cannot change perception until they express intent. When bringing up teamwork and collaboration, make sure you drive home the point of “why.” The workplace is historically known to be cut throat, so it should not come as a surprise that your team might feel threatened or on the defense. Explain your purpose so that you manage the negative perceptions. This is a helpful tactic for employees to keep mind when approach team projects. Once you answer the “why” it’s on to the “how.”
The major differences between leading and managing are teaching and enabling. As the old adage goes: you give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for life. The same can be applied to the workforce. When it comes to the teamwork and collaboration, have a concrete plan. This isn’t to say that your employees cannot innovate or think outside the box. In fact, providing explicit parameters can encourage innovation in groups, because people feel comfortable with the expectations. The guidelines exist to establish expectations while ensuring that teamwork and collaboration bring out the very best in your employees.
Remember those group projects in high school where the teacher used the sink or swim method? Groups were penalized if one or some of their team did not perform well. While the idea is to encourage teamwork and collaboration, it usually creates a toxic work environment as employees begin to view each other as adversaries, rather than comrades. Instead, teach the art of mutual reciprocity and emphasize the goals at hand. After all, the team should be working toward the same thing at the end of the day.
In the same way that everyone approaches group work with their own set of experiences and perceptions, they also bring with them their unique set of skills and strengths. Encourage team members to familiarize themselves with the everyone’s skills and interests. This way the team can play to each other’s strengths and optimize the division of tasks.
While the work world (and world in general) is vastly diverse, it’s important to remember that we are often working toward a shared goal. The only difference is that we simply go about accomplishing tasks differently. So with that in mind, leaders can encourage and nurture communal growth within their people to take teamwork and collaboration to the next level.
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