Effective collaboration is a lot more than communication

The word TEAM in large white letters on a white table with four white chairs, over a hardwood floor, with white walls in the background and a colorful picture on the wall of hands coming together

To avoid conflict or disputes takes an active effort to promote communication and collaboration. Communication involves sharing information between participants. Collaboration takes this a step further. There is a goal and something to accomplish with collaboration. For effective collaboration leaders have to foster an environment to gather the right people, consider multiple viewpoints, keep your eye on the ball, and bring this team together for positive results.

This is often where it can break down. Collaboration is one of the top five skills you and your team need to be successful. Today up to nearly 90% of project managers are working remotely in project management since the pandemic began. Team members may be new to each other. They may have to learn how to collaborate with someone new. Consider various tools to enhance collaboration. This requires a new look for strategic prioritization to optimize collaboration.


Average companies


By comparison with a lack of cross functional collaboration, performance metrics, and clear goals with continuous feedback loops, average firms hope it will happen once they bring the right people together. It might, but

there will not be peak performance without a strategy and tactics to ensure leadership, listening, and feedback loops with checking in with everyone regularly.

Not addressing these issues results in an approach that fosters reactive rather than proactive participation. This results in suboptimization. There is no one size fits all on how to do this. There are however best practices.


Best practices


High performing companies focus on outcomes and allow the processes to flow and be flexible. The process needs to be fluid with a series of feedback loops to determine how things are going. What works? What does not work? How should you overcome obstacles? Can an obstacle change into an opportunity if we look at this differently?

Firms that operate by focusing on innovation, hiring with diversity in mind, allowing participants to make mistakes, stay focused on the goal,

make quick corrections, shift resources as necessary, and value all participants are places the best employees like to work.

These firms maximize opportunities for their people to learn technically as well as enhance the formerly soft skills now known as the critical skills to enhance understanding of others and increase performance. So how do best practice companies do this? They have a vision,  focus on customer service and customer satisfaction,  and promote true diversity and inclusion across the board for optimum outcomes. Everyone is valued. They have a vision and promote a culture that encourages collaboration and inclusion.


Have a vision


Develop a plan. Carry out the plan. Revise the plan as necessary. Know who will do what by when. Have follow up sessions periodically to see how you are doing. Address concerns related to interpersonal differences, resources needed, priorities, and changing stakeholder needs. Be transparent. Share information.

Clarify roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities as questions come up.

Encourage ideas. Accept that everyone makes mistakes. All of this makes for better decision making. When everyone knows where we are going teams align knowing they are all on the same train to the same location.

Customer service and customer satisfaction

Understand your customer and their needs. Make this your number one priority. Understand not only their needs, but their wants, and any concerns they may have. What can you do to address these concerns to make this the best customer service possible? Gather ideas and concerns in person, virtually, and by following your data. Is there other data you should have. You tend to measure information that is easy to obtain. Do you need valid statistical samples or focus groups to gain other insights? Consider an online focus group of key customers to share with you their concerns and dreams in a perfect world. In a  virtual world this can easily be recorded with participants’ permission. That way you can share it with others later. This will make sure everyone has heard the same information and can take appropriate actions with better understanding. As a result, you are far more likely to not only meet, but to exceed customer satisfaction with even better customer service. Imagine that. You need to ask a few pointed questions with a trained facilitator with questions like:

  • What would you like to see happen?
  • What insights do you have based on past experiences that you are willing to share?
  • What would you like us to stop, start, and keep doing?

Starting with these types of questions a trained facilitator can ask follow up questions to see where these customers would like to go. As a result of these efforts, you customers may direct you as to where you need to expand collaboration across silos in your organization and provide other insights.


True diversity and inclusion


Some studies have found that firms that truly support diversity and inclusion outperform those that don’t. Why? They gain insights from different perspectives that enhance how issues are perceived. Other studies point out that is not that simple. It may not be a cause and effect. Rather

innovative firms may hire a wider range of cross sectional team members, and it may be the innovative nature of the firm that causes the better performance.

Inclusion is hard. This means truly connecting with each other and bonding. It means actively listening to each other. It means having meaningful relationships at a deeper level. Innovative firms create various forums for people to connect at work, with volunteering, with areas of shared passion and interests. They also create an environment where everyone can be heard. Small groups are an ideal setting for these types of interactions.

When addressing concerns with groups with a global enterprise, geographically dispersed, or with different cultures this is more complex. Impossible, no. Harder, yes. Global teams require additional time for planning and addressing these concerns. Considering the potential benefits, it is worth the time to make the effort. To read more check out the article from Forbes that inspired me to write this commentary.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]