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4 Tips To Create A Collaborative Culture

Between growing workplace diversity (see this month’s e-book), geographical dispersion, and organization changes getting individuals to collaborate is no small feat. Research shows that employees view collaboration as an essential element to accomplish their daily work.  Yet despite this common agreement, productive collaboration manages to elude most organizations.

As I’ve previously discussed, just because you have purchased collaboration tools does not mean that collaboration will occur. It’s difficult to motivate people to want to change their habits. I know that I hate it when my morning routine is altered, even if it’s on a small scale. Imagine then, trying to change the habits of a whole sea of people like myself – that’s the real challenge.

Successful collaboration stems from instituting a collaborative culture – there, I’ve said it. But if you’re an organization that hasn’t focused on cultivating a collaborative culture, it’s not easy, especially because most team’s/organization’s culture evolves organically. If you’re a bit stumped or unsure what some characteristics of a collaborative culture are, you’re in luck. I want to share an interesting article by J. Clint Anderson that outlines four good characteristics of a collaborative culture.

Set Group Expectations

Most managers are very good at setting individual expectations. You sit down with your boss and typically outline what you are going to try and achieve that week/month/quarter. However, most managers fail to set team goals. “If you want a positive team culture, you have to know what behaviors define that kind of group experience,” suggests Anderson. I hope you just had an A-ha moment there. Anderson has a great idea. Why not have managers lay out some team expectations. He writes, “Once you identify the behaviors consider what values develop those behaviors. Values such as mutual respect, openness, honesty, mutual support etc…” You’ll find that you can easily lay a foundation for a positive team culture by introducing these values as expectations.

Define Collaborative Behavior

Once expectations have been set, it’s important to then outline what it is you’re looking for. Collaboration has a lot of different meanings, and it’s important to take some time and try to define what you want it to look like. IDEO founder, David Kelly, did just this. He outlined what he wanted collaboration to look like at IDEO. For example, “Before a person can make a decision, that team member must consult with colleagues it will affect and if it will have a negative effect, that person does not follow through.” Devising a process like this fosters collaboration. According to Anderson, “A positive team culture will develop as team members approach individual responsibility in a manner that ensues a positive result for everyone else on the team.” Additionally, by creating a process that focuses on fostering discussion, teams are more likely to have better results and “it strengthens team members’ connection quality.”

Embrace Team Diversity

“It has long been recognized that personality differences can either improve or hinder a positive team culture,” writes Anderson. It’s no surprise that personality diversity can make or break teams, “Teams that benefits from different personalities work to understand and accept one another.” Odds are the guy that drives everyone nuts, is the one you realize you need the most. A positive collaborative culture develops as everyone begins to understand and accept their own personality and those of their fellow team members.

Provide Accountability Through Feedback

One of the cornerstones of creating a positive team culture is creating accountability through feedback. You must go beyond information and lead by example. Expect some time to elapse before you see team mates start to embrace this desired culture. It’s important to establish accountability for the new practices by observing individual and group behavior and most importantly providing feedback. Feedback should help guide team members through desired changes and help them enjoy the new culture.

The modern workplace is now experiencing increased diversity, growing workloads, geographic dispersion, and organizational changes. This clarifies the reason why you should invest time and energy in your team’s culture. While you cannot control the external factors that affect the team, you do have the ability to directly influence how your team responds to those factors as you develop a positive team culture.

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