Four Ways to Drive Collaboration

Collaboration starts at the top. Leaders must consistently instill in their staff values which encourage an environment of cooperation and collaboration. As employees learn, through positive feedback, that collaboration is valued, they are incentivized to continue with their current attitudes and behaviors. Below are four key values and behaviors to drive collaboration in your organization.


1. Communicate with Collaboration as a Priority

Communication across all team members, units, departments and agencies is an essential component of effective collaboration. The way meetings are facilitated, the way internal and external communication is delivered, and the manner in which project managers handle the workflow are all critical to a team’s ability to collaborate.

Collaborative communication begins with an organization’s leadership. Keith Sawyer, commenting on the July-August 2011 edition of the Harvard Business Review, notes that utilizes collaborative communication well. In a meeting of more than 200 top executives, over 5,000 employees were invited to attend virtually and were given laptops to provide commentary and ask questions throughout the meeting. The result? Employees felt more empowered and open to sharing their thoughts and ideas on company initiatives.


2. Pause at Critical Points

Because collaboration isn’t instinctive for most professionals, sometimes it is necessary to pace the team in order to achieve goals more rapidly. The Harvard Business Review conducted a study to determine the effectiveness of a fast-paced, go-getter team approach compared to a strategy of pausing at critical points to determine the best way to move forward. Among the 343 businesses participating in the study, those choosing to push forward to the end to gain a competitive edge actually achieved lower sales and operating profits compared with those taking a slower, more collaborative approach. In fact, the companies that used a more paced approach realized 40 percent higher sales and 52 percent higher operating profits over the three-year analysis.


3. Incentivize Collaboration

It is one thing to encourage team members to collaborate for the greater good, but offering rewards and accolades goes a long way in fostering the cooperative atmosphere. However, individual rewards are not the right solution in this case, says TJ Laher of If you are encouraging a collaborative mindset, yet offering rewards on an individualized basis, you are actually promoting a competitive mindset that is a major hindrance to collaboration.

The solution is to provide group rewards and accolades when team goals are achieved. When you endeavor to facilitate collaboration, it is imperative to reward the behaviors of the group as a whole.


4. Create a Positive Work Environment

Fast Company points out that collaboration is promoted by placing people in positive work environments in which they feel they belong and they are safe. Such a positive environment allows them to access their own higher-level behaviors, such as cooperation and the ability to place the goals of the whole unit above their own individual wants and desires.

One method that has proven useful for leaders is the Appreciative Inquiry Model. This formula suggests that allowing each team or unit member to present his or her ideal outcome aligned with the specific goals of the group empowers individuals and invests them in the process.

The Center for Appreciative Inquiry says, “Appreciative Inquiry is a collaborative, strength-based approach to both personal and organizational development that is proving to be highly effective in thousands of organizations and communities in hundreds of countries around the world.” Using the strengths of individuals to achieve a higher goal as a whole is a concept that most leaders learned in college (if not high school), yet is difficult to evoke from teams in the real world.


Begin today to embrace these four behaviors and vales in your organization to develop an environment of cooperation and collaboration.





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