Inspiring Collaboration in the Modern Workplace
Where does collaboration come from? It comes from communication, from drive, and from a shared passion to achieve great things as an organization.
You can put all the physical and digital strategies you like in place but without an underlying ethos of collaboration, the effect on your workplace will be minimal.
Instead, the right environment must be fostered in order to incubate collaboration in your office and beyond, encompassing your whole organization.
Of course, building collaboratively-focused office spaces and having the tools in place to work together on remote projects is important. But this only provides one-half of the solution. What you are aiming to achieve is a cultural shift; a change in the very fabric of what makes your office tick.
If you want collaboration and the advantages it brings, you need to inspire it. Here’s how…
Make the Advantages Known
The carrot and stick management analogy has long been put to bed and dismissed as overly simplistic. Instead, a more sophisticated – and, yet, blindingly obvious – approach is required, which is simply to outline the advantages of high-quality collaborative work.
The motivations of your team members are too wide-ranging and diverse for a catch-all rewards scheme. For example, individual staff members may have a complex set of driving factors in their heads when they approach work.
This means, what may motivate some of your team may be meaningless to others. Instead, we need to demonstrate how collaboration can be done properly and how we can achieve a serious benefit by adopting this approach at work.
Discuss best practices, examine case studies, open up a dialogue across the whole team, and build the foundations of a collaborative environment.
The Power of Narrative
Stories, by their very nature, are inspiring. Stories are also inclusive and collaborative. While, nowadays, we have the idea of a person reading a book alone, probably a book authored by a single person, this is not where stories came from.
Stories began with the oral tradition; ballads and sagas developed collaboratively over time and delivered to an audience en masse. Tap into this idea when it comes to inspiring your team to work collaboratively.
Share stories and experiences. Provide an open forum for others to share their own. By working in this way, you are helping to create an atmosphere of action and sharing, rather than passivity and reservation.
When outlining the benefits of collaborative work in terms of both personal and organizational development, build and illustrate a strong narrative.
Lead From the Front
It goes without saying that inspiring a change in the workplace involves taking the lead and showing how it can be done. Of course, the same is true for building a collaboration culture. However, you may be surprised by how many leaders ‘talk the talk’ but fail to ‘walk the walk’ in this regard.
Simply telling your team what they need to do is not going to cut it. They already understand what collaboration is and what teamwork looks like. It is up to you to show them its specific applications within your organization.
Examine past initiatives and understand how they could be handled better in the future. Consider how teams can be built so they are made up of individuals who complement the skill sets of one another. Place yourself on the front line as an example. This is a significant step towards creating a collaborative atmosphere with a long legacy.
Focus on Mobility
Setting the ball rolling on collaboration at work does take a degree of effort. This, however, is not the most difficult part of fostering the right atmosphere.
Getting team members accustomed to discussing issues and working together on different projects is straightforward, provided this movement is lateral, taking place on the same rung of the proverbial ladder.
It gets a little more difficult when vertically integrated collaboration is required; when mobility between different levels is expected.
This is wholly dependent on the culture discussed above. The modern workplace needs to be the breeding ground for a culture of mutual respect, openness, and a willingness to share ideas.
All team members, at all levels, need to feel comfortable and confident that they will be treated with respect at work and that their ideas will be listened to. The flipside of this is that all ideas – no matter which echelon of the organization the idea comes from – are open to debate and reasoned disagreement.
By creating this sort of open and mobile atmosphere, you are clearing the way for innovation. The most ingenious ideas do not necessarily originate at the top but are developed collaboratively.
Build Your Toolkit, and Your Environment
Developing a positive atmosphere of collaboration is one thing but this needs to be supported by the environment. Your team needs to have a workspace in which their collaborative efforts are complimented and enhanced, for example, through the provision of in-house conference areas and rooms, or via hardware pieces designed to enable remote communication.
Your team also needs a range of digital tools, applications and platforms to help them achieve the objectives they set for themselves.
These include scheduling tools to brings tasks together and to ensure progress towards set goals, collaborative work platforms to unify efforts and ensure everyone is pulling in the same direction, and automated systems which can take care of some of the heavy lifting associated with collaborative working, leaving teams free to focus on their strong points.
Inspiring smart collaboration is about laying the groundwork and making sure that all elements – whether they are physical, digital, or conceptual – are in place. From here, high-quality collaboration can be easily achieved.