Collaboration is a big theme in small business today for a reason: it works. As CEO of the first e-commerce company in the commercial printing space, I know the importance of building a team-oriented workforce. I can attest that people thrive in an environment that frees them to collaborate. When my employees experience job satisfaction, my customers reap the benefits. However, implementing this approach can be challenging. A paradigm shift, which changes the focus from individual accomplishment to team success, is required.
If you asked several CEOs or human resource professionals what goals or elements were important to their success, you would probably get some phrases and corporate terms that kept coming up. Collaboration in the workplace would certainly be one of the more common answers. It is often the key to much of your success in corporate America. So what is workplace collaboration? Let’s explore that answer, and look at some of the benefits it offers! Collaboration in the workplace is when two or more people (often groups) work together through idea sharing and thinking to accomplish a common goal. It is simply teamwork taken to a higher level. Teamwork is often a physical joining of two people or a group to accomplish a task. With the changes and advancements in technology, such as high speed Internet, web-based programs, file sharing, email and video-conferencing, collaboration has become a more productive way of doing things. Collaboration in the workplace incorporates teamwork and several other aspects, such as the following:
Thinking and brainstorming ideas to provide solutions – This key element brings groups together to offer different perspectives and expertise to solve for common problems. The phrase ‘putting our heads together’ would be a good example of this important element of collaboration.
A strong sense of purpose – Groups and individuals who truly collaborate see the value in working together. Collaboration is not forced upon someone. There should be a meaningful reason for working together, and it should benefit both parties or the company as a whole.
Equal participation – In corporate America, a collaborative manager or leader may often say, ‘leave your titles at the door.’ Treating everyone as equals when collaborating can open up communication and encourage ideas from all levels of the company or department, not just the managers or directors.
Foster a creative atmosphere. Allow team members to question and brainstorm in a non-judgmental framework. Encourage the team to look at obstacles as being conquerable. Nurture a “can do” company attitude. Ask why, or why not, on a regular basis. One way we cultivate a creative atmosphere at my company is by providing leadership training that encourages character development. We purposefully hire employees who aspire to be and produce their very best.
Build cohesion. Include every person on the team in as many large decisions as possible. Create a means of communicating current work flows to avoid duplication of effort. Initiate daily team huddles where each member shares what they will be accomplishing that day. This keeps everyone on the same playbook and enables team members to re-direct their efforts as needed.