The past two-plus years here at PGi have afforded me the opportunity to work on a variety of teams. Small, close-knit teams that shared cube walls; Teams stretched out across the world in multiple cities and time zones; Teams with folks I have never met in person, and teams made up of old friends.
The unique experience with each group has made one thing abundantly clear: The most successful teams make a concerted, sustained effort to collaborate, to pool thoughts, to execute ideas together.
Many forces are at work here as we usher in a golden age of collaboration. A swiftly changing workforce dynamic, with Gen-Y pushing for more collaborative work experiences, is leading the charge. Forbes puts it this way: “This new generation of employee not only thrives in highly collaborative workplaces, but is now making this a key requirement in selecting where to work.”
The continuing push toward mobile collaboration – not just independent mobile working – is also driving the collaborative workforce forward. With collaborative productivity apps like Evernote, Google Docs and Dropbox ready to help execute projects together, we have effectively recreated the office environment on our phones, tablets and laptops.
And behind all of this, is the idea that collaboration is hardwired into us. Research psychologist Jonathan Haidt, an expert on “hive psychology” theory posits that happiness is correlated with losing oneself in a greater whole:
“The most effective moral communities – from a well-being perspective – are those that offer occasional experiences in which self-consciousness is greatly reduced and one feels merged with or part of something greater than the self.”
Teams make us happier. There’s a reason coworking is exploding worldwide, why independent workers feel the need to be a part of something greater. We’re wired to collaborate. Here are some principles I’ve found to help teams stay together and collaborate deeply no matter how your team is structured and where you work from.
1. Get Together. A lot.
It may seem obvious, but getting together for meetings and touching base almost daily is crucial for your team’s synergy, morale and productivity. That might mean a video conference call. That might mean a get together with your boss. It might mean coffee with your team on Fridays. Whatever you need to do to keep connected, do it.
Without these touch-bases and mini status updates, you can begin to feel disconnected and before you know it, work will start feeling a lot like work. So take initiative if you’re starting to feel that disconnected feeling. Set up a meeting, talk to your boss, gather the troops. It’s worth it.
2. Don’t Talk About Work (Sometimes)
One of my favorite pieces of my current team are the email threads that grow out of articles we share. Someone will send out an article to the team from a tech blog, everyone throws in their opinion, analyzes it, dissects it, and inevitably, it diverges into something altogether different. These random transactions build repoire, grow everyone’s knowledge base and make work more interesting.
On another team, we had a 3pm Friday tradition of heading over to one of the best coffee shops in Austin to help get through the last couple hours of the week. It’s a simple idea that helped grow our team. Because of it, we learned to trust each other more and look out for the well-being of the whole team.
3. Face Time Matters
One of the most consistently productive meetings I’ve had over the course of the past couple years was a weekly face-to-face meeting with my manager. I always leave that meeting feeling more deeply wired into the company, with a clearer understanding of where I should be spending my time and what I should be focusing on. Getting face-to-face has that effect.
This can be more challenging with remote teams, but video meetings promote the same deep connection that being in the same room provides. We’ve touched on this before, but up to 55% of communication is nonverbal, which begs the question: How much is your team missing on that bi-weekly conference call?
4. Focus on Results, Not Methods
It’s easy to get wrapped up in methods, in the how behind your team collaborates. Adi Gaskel of Social Business News has a different view: “Remember that the point of mass collaboration is to achieve great results, so ensure you focus on the end goal rather than worrying about how that is achieved. You will need your collaborative community to set their own goals and objectives.”
Collaboration is vital to success, but it’s constantly changing. So, how can you ensure you’re ready to adapt? Check out PGi’s eBook on The Future of Business Collaboration.