Collaboration skills are nothing new. In fact, humans have been collaborating to achieve goals since human history began. The great architectural wonders of the world, advances in medicine and technology, mesmerizing special effects that jump off the movie screen—these are all the result of collaboration.
Most work environments require a certain level of collaboration among team members. Even in companies where employees work mostly on their own, there’s likely some collaboration to connect the business with other businesses and customers.
It’s every manager’s dream to have a business where employees and various teams within the company are united in spirit and can seamlessly work together. However, fostering a harmonious collaborative union is probably going to require some effort.
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What Does Successful Collaboration Look Like?
Good collaboration is when team members are all united in accomplishing the same goal. The teams may have very different duties and responsibilities, but they work well both as a unit and with the other departments or teams within the business.
The result of good collaboration, of course, is a business that flourishes and reaches new milestones. Startups and SMBs need collaborative teammates if they are to survive the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Effective collaboration among the teams and employees of businesses requires both strong communication and interpersonal skills—whether working under the same roof or virtually. There’s a balanced flow of sharing ideas and feedback and teams hold themselves and others accountable for getting the job done in a unified fashion. Simple enough, right?
5 Key Collaboration Skills
Here are five key collaboration skills to bring teams together and knock those big goals out of the park.
1. Active Listening
Let’s go ahead and put a gold star beside this one because, without strong active listening skills from all teams, the chances of good collaboration are slim. Clear and thoughtful communication requires self-awareness because employees need to understand their preferences and still strive to hear the concerns of others.
Strong active listeners are excellent communicators, both verbally and with written communication. According to a 2017 corporate recruiters report, listening skills were one of t he most highly sought after skills for job candidates and second only to oral communication skills. Knowing how to clearly convey ideas is essential for team collaboration, but so is listening to the ideas and feedback of others.
So how can team members improve their active listening skills for better collaboration? They just need to do 3 simple things:
- Be present.
- Don’t interrupt.
- Ask follow-up questions.
Go ahead and look for an unorganized team that collaborates well together and gets things accomplished on schedule. They’re like the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot—you won’t find one because they don’t exist.
While in an ideal world, everyone on your team would be a perfectly organized individual, that’s not always the case. There are steps to learn to be more organized, but that’s not our specific focus here, and hopefully, you’re already hiring organized folks.
No, what we’re talking about here pertains more to team organization and building a cohesive unit that collaborates well together. And for that, we need to look at delegation or in layman’s terms, making sure everyone is on the same page and knows their role. Automation apps may help team members stay organized and focus on important tasks.
It’s up to whoever is leading the organization to ensure that each team leader has assigned the people on their team duties and responsibilities they’re best suited for. If one person isn’t sure of their role, it’s only going to slow progress and cause problems down the line.
Managers and team leaders should strive for good communication with their teams and other departments to ensure that organization doesn’t deteriorate.
A few benefits of an organized team:
- Better productivity
- Higher employee morale
- Lower employee turnover
Successful collaboration is going to be the result of team members who are engaged with each other and the work they’re doing. If teams aren’t in at least somewhat regular communication with each other, then it’s more likely to result in people feeling disconnected from any setbacks and gains in the work.
Creating strong engagement and thus, better collaboration skills that unite teams should include regular feedback and discussion. This allows employees to voice their opinions, share ideas, and even explore potentially taking on new job duties.
For example, Google reportedly allows employees to dedicate 20 percent of their time towards pursuing new projects or further education. While this might t seem counterproductive at first, it results in employees that are more focused and engaged with their everyday work.
Employees who feel valued and heard are more engaged with their job and are going to overall be more enthused when it comes to collaboration.
When it comes down to building collaboration among teams in the workplace, transparency goes a long way. Without it, people feel that they’re working “for” rather than “with” their managers—and that’s not always a good thing.
Let the people on your team know about where the company is regarding any projects, why certain aspects are important, and any challenges that may come up along the way. This allows each team member to take the right steps in their respective duties to avoid any complications and do the best job possible.
While providing transparency at the beginning of a project is important, leaders should also regularly keep lines of communication open and not avoid challenging topics. Be honest if you don’t have the answers to difficult questions.
This sort of transparency is what fosters trust in teams and results in greater success. Studies have shown that companies that place an emphasis on transparency and fostering trust tend to be more profitable.
People are not always going to agree with the workplace choices of other team members, their boss, or other departments. That said, being open-minded and learning to adapt and compromise will increase the chances of successful team collaboration by huge leaps and bounds.
It’s just a fact that people have different ambitions and ideas for how a job should be done and what aspects of it deserve the highest priority.
For example, the creative department likely isn’t going to always be on the same page as the accounting department. This is where adaptability and compromise come into play.
Obstacles will arise and not everyone will agree on the same solution, but to move forward, some compromise is probably necessary. Oftentimes, this is going to require a bit of conflict resolution from team leaders and again—this is where those active listening skills are so important.
Teams that know how to compromise and adapt will be that much stronger because they’re showing consideration for others and putting the long-term goal ahead of their egos.
How Can Leaders Foster These Skills in Team Members?
Now that we’ve outlined the essential skills for building strong team collaboration, it’s time to look at how to go about doing it. Unfortunately, simply sending out a memo that reads “Hey everyone, please collaborate better” won’t cut it.
A surefire way to set the tone for team collaboration is to create opportunities for team members to get to know one another. It doesn’t take a sociology expert to realize that people tend to collaborate better when they know who they’re working with. A few ideas for this could be something as simple as gathering everyone around for introductions or something like company happy hour or a more structured event such as a company retreat.
It’s vital that teams regularly come together—either in-person or via Skype or Zoom—to share updates and progress. This gives everyone a chance to provide and hear feedback and ensure that everyone is engaged and on the same page.
Perhaps the best way that managers and team leaders can foster strong collaboration skills is to lead by example. A leader that is an active listener, organized, adapts well to challenge, and strives for a healthy level of transparency with their employees, is going to have a team that is much more capable of successful collaboration.
More Tips to Enhance Your Collaboration Skills
When it comes to being effective vs efficient, there are a lot of similarities, and because of this, they’re often misused and misinterpreted, both in daily use and application.
Every business should look for new ways to improve employee effectiveness and efficiency to save time and energy in the long term. Just because a company or employee has one, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that the other is equally present.
Utilizing both an effective and efficient methodology in nearly any capacity of work and life will yield high levels of productivity, while a lack of it will lead to a lack of positive results.
Before we discuss the various nuances between the word effective and efficient and how they factor into productivity, let’s break things down with a definition of their terms.
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Effective vs Efficient
Effective is defined as “producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect.” Meanwhile, the word “efficient ” is defined as “capable of producing desired results with little or no waste (as of time or materials).”
A rather simple way of explaining the differences between the two would be to consider a light bulb. Say that your porch light burned out and you decided that you wanted to replace the incandescent light bulb outside with an LED one. Either light bulb would be effective in accomplishing the goal of providing you with light at night, but the LED one would use less energy and therefore be the more efficient choice.
Now, if you incorrectly set a timer for the light, and it was turned on throughout the entire day, then you would be wasting energy. While the bulb is still performing the task of creating light in an efficient manner, it’s on during the wrong time of day and therefore not effective.
The effective way is focused on accomplishing the goal, while the efficient method is focused on the best way of accomplishing the goal.
Whether we’re talking about a method, employee, or business, the subject in question can be either effective or efficient, or, in rare instances, they can be both.
When it comes to effective vs efficient, the goal of achieving maximum productivity is going to be a combination where the subject is effective and as efficient as possible in doing so.
Effectiveness in Success and Productivity
Being effective vs efficient is all about doing something that brings about the desired intent or effect. If a pest control company is hired to rid a building’s infestation, and they employ “method A” and successfully completed the job, they’ve been effective at achieving the task.
The task was performed correctly, to the extent that the pest control company did what they were hired to do. As for how efficient “method A” was in completing the task, that’s another story.
If the pest control company took longer than expected to complete the job and used more resources than needed, then their efficiency in completing the task wasn’t particularly good. The client may feel that even though the job was completed, the value in the service wasn’t up to par.
When assessing the effectiveness of any business strategy, it’s wise to ask certain questions before moving forward:
- Has a target solution to the problem been identified?
- What is the ideal response time for achieving the goal?
- Does the cost balance out with the benefit?
Looking at these questions, a leader should ask to what extent a method, tool, or resource meets the above criteria and achieve the desired effect. If the subject in question doesn’t hit any of these marks, then productivity will likely suffer.
Efficiency in Success and Productivity
Efficiency is going to account for the resources and materials used in relation to the value of achieving the desired effect. Money, people, inventory, and (perhaps most importantly) time, all factor into the equation.
When it comes to being effective vs efficient, efficiency can be measured in numerous ways. In general, the business that uses fewer materials or that is able to save time is going to be more efficient and have an advantage over the competition. This is assuming that they’re also effective, of course.
Consider a sales team for example. Let’s say that a company’s sales team is tasked with making 100 calls a week and that the members of that team are hitting their goal each week without any struggle.
The members on the sales team are effective in hitting their goal. However, the question of efficiency comes into play when management looks at how many of those calls turn into solid connections and closed deals.
If less than 10 percent of those calls generate a connection, the productivity is relatively low because the efficiency is not adequately balancing out with the effect. Management can either keep the same strategy or take a new approach.
Perhaps they break up their sales team with certain members handling different parts of the sales process, or they explore a better way of connecting with their customers through a communications company.
The goal is ultimately going to be finding the right balance, where they’re being efficient with the resources they have to maximize their sales goals without stretching themselves too thin. Finding this balance is often easier said than done, but it’s incredibly important for any business that is going to thrive.
Combining Efficiency and Effectiveness to Maximize Productivity
Being effective vs efficient works best if both are pulled together for the best results.
If a business is ineffective in accomplishing its overall goal, and the customer doesn’t feel that the service is equated with the cost, then efficiency becomes largely irrelevant. The business may be speedy and use minimal resources, but they struggle to be effective. This may put them at risk of going under.
It’s for this reason that it’s best to shoot for being effective first, and then work on bringing efficiency into practice.
Improving productivity starts with taking the initiative to look at how effective a company, employee, or method is through performance reviews. Leaders should make a point to regularly examine performance at all levels on a whole, and take into account the results that are being generated.
Businesses and employees often succumb to inefficiency because they don’t look for a better way, or they lack the proper tools to be effective in the most efficient manner possible.
Similar to improving a manager or employee’s level of effectiveness, regularly measuring the resources needed to obtain the desired effect will ensure that efficiency is being accounted for. This involves everything from keeping track of inventory and expenses, to how communication is handled within an organization.
By putting in place a baseline value for key metrics and checking them once changes have been made, a company will have a much better idea of the results they’re generating.
It’s no doubt a step-by-step process. By making concentrated efforts, weakness can be identified and rectified sooner rather than later when the damage is already done.
Understanding the differences between being effective vs efficient is key when it comes to maximizing productivity. It’s simply working smart so that the intended results are achieved in the best way possible. Finding the optimal balance should be the ultimate goal for employees and businesses:
- Take the steps that result in meeting the solution.
- Review the process and figure out how to do it better.
- Repeat the process with what has been learned in a more efficient manner.
And just like that, effective and efficient productivity is maximized.