Take these five actions to improve collaboration

lap top computer with a host of international faces coming out of the screen

Collaboration is simply the action of two or more parties working towards a common a goal. However, not everyone is necessarily on the same page and conflicts can arise for a variety of reasons. To minimize conflicts and to improve collaboration here are five actions you can take to improve the process. When you improve the process you enhance relationships, reduce required resources, and improve results.


1. Define the problem


What is the goal? Have you defined the problem properly? Often problems are defined when a particular solution is being promoted. Before jumping to a simply defined problem, step back and clearly define the problem.

Many employers have various collaboration tools for their employees to use at work. It is thought if the tools are there, they will be accepted and applied. However, according to a study at CMSWire “77 percent of employees never use their enterprise social network, and only 3 percent use it once each day”.

It is especially important that any collaboration tool include a social network, be a fit for your culture, be encouraged and recognized, and gain acceptance.

 If it is not, the tool will have been a wasted effort.

Do not think because you have a collaboration software or tool that the application will find a solution in and of itself. Make sure with any project that you have correctly defined the problem up front and found the appropriate resources for your people.

If collaboration is not working, why not? What are ways to enhance collaboration? Is it the tools? Is it the people? Is it the leadership? This is the first step to improving collaboration. Define the problem properly.


2. Enhance trust


Collaboration only takes place in environments when there is trust. To enhance trust, explore your actions and culture.

Make sure you and others are straightforward with each other. Promote honesty and integrity. Do not be defensive regarding concerns or feedback to you. Encourage honest interactions. Be accepting of others comments towards you. Provide others with feedforward by exploring what went wrong with – what can we do together going forward. The key words here are “we” and “forward”.

Be open with your team. Share what they need to know. Be open. Share whatever you can ethically, morally, and legally.

Go out of your way to share information, networks, ideas, and resources. Be a true team player.

Accept others. Do not blame yourself or others. Suspend judgment and listen. Be curious. Check your assumptions. Be interested in them. Slow down. Develop good working relationships, listen to what others have to say. Encourage each other and be there for each other.

Be responsible Do what you say you are going to do. If you can not meet a deadline notify others as soon as possible on what you can do by when. Do not over commit. Give yourself float or a cushion. Do your best. Under promise and overdeliver.

Being straightforward, open, accepting, and responsible go a long way towards promoting trust.


3. Connect people around the work they do


If you can tie in the work people do with a broader purpose, people feel a more natural interest and sense of ownership. For example, grain elevators do not simply process grain. They help feed the world and provide feed to allow others in the world to have protein in their diet that would not have otherwise. Think about your mission, vision, and values. Apply them to your work and what this work means more broadly.

Connect people with the work they do and the tools they need for collaboration.

You and your employees spend about 28% of your time on email. Email is a one-way tool. If you are considering collaborative tools you have lots of choices. The last link offers you up to 52 current popular choices to consider. With so many choices the considerations can be overwhelming. The point is, that it will not matter if your people will not embrace and want to work with the chosen solution. You may want to consider brining them into the decision making.

Whatever you choose, you need to manage the change with your people. There will be an ending with respect to whatever they are doing currently. Recognize that. Allow them to celebrate what they have used previously and allow them to grieve that they are giving up something they know how to use. At the same time give them an opportunity to grow and try the new tool. They have to see what is in it for them. You also have to make sure they are on board culturally, are encouraged to use the tool, and are recognized for applications with the tool. Meet them with what they do. Be there to help.


4. Communicate regularly


Today within organizations you are in your own silo. The bureaucracy, organization, and competing priorities do not necessarily encourage collaboration. Not so much by design, but through a lack of consideration regarding collaboration. If there is encouragement to truly collaborate with each other, embracing a culture of inclusion, syncing with others regularly, there is a greater likelihood of breaking down silos.

It takes a conscious effort to communicate regularly.

Leaders need to connect across departments to simply share what is taking place. Who knows what advice, connections, data sources, or other information someone has that could help you. It is better to find out about duplicating efforts early. It is also helpful and can save you considerable time when others provide you with valuable insights or resources to help you or you can help them. The more you connect the more you can avoid being surprised by the unexpected.


5. Consider the customer


Oh yes, the customer. That is what was driving this in the first place. Often it is possible to become caught up in the process, the data, the project at the expense of the end user, the customer. What is that they want? Why are you doing this in the first place. Is it user friendly in the end or something that you and your team think is pretty cool?

You need to be aligned around your customer’s experience.

 You will see collaboration increase when you are focused on the critical factors for making this a positive experience for them.




To improve collaboration, make sure you

  • Define the problem correctly from the beginning
  • Enhance trust with your team and others
  • Connect your people to the work they do
  • Communicate regularly to ensure understanding
  • Consider your customer and align with them

By taking these steps you are incorporating five of the ideas from The Collaboration Effect®. By connecting relationships, listening actively, and educating judiciously you will build bridges to negotiate closure. This will allow you to enhance relationships, resources and revenues going forward.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, collaborator, and an author. 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, NSA, CVP, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]

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]