PART TWO: Building with Collaboration
In my last blog I talked about how building a great foundation for healthy teams starts with intention from leaders. To be successful with our teams we need honesty, and to be truly honest people need to feel safe. This incredible gray area between micromanagement and ghost bosses is an opportunity for us as leaders to be present, to inspire and be a part of the conversation. We’re invested in the work we do and the customers we work for, so why wouldn’t we be invested in the people who work with us?
Great intention with your teams becomes valuable collaboration. Not just with between individual and leader, but within the team itself. If you’re familiar with the agile mindset, a large topic but simple in philosophy, a big focus is around continuous improvement through collaboration – and that means digging and getting dirty alongside your team to learn as much as you can with them.
If Customer Facing, Work with Customers Together – Working directly with those who use your product will not only help you to build better things, your team can brainstorm together on what they’ve observed and what they should problem solve and prioritize. This can be done in a variety of different ways, but the best way to start is to sit with customers (in person or digitally) to observe patterns of behavior. Years ago, I worked with a team who created software for marketing entrepreneurs. Other than an annual event with customers the teams really didn’t know much about their customer’s experience, other than when a support ticket was filed if there was an issue. The team and I started by setting up time every other week to sit with real people using their product, either in-house or remotely, to simply observe them using what we had created. After those observations, we came back together and shared our findings. The result was a passionate conversation about where employees saw opportunities to make their customer’s experience better and could start talking about where we could prioritize. From there, we were able to chip away at the valuable list of what customers truly needed.
Continuing Education – Giving folks opportunities for learning more about their industry and supporting those interests is a great way to grow relationships, understand your people better and discover what drives them. If groups of employees can attend conferences or workshops together, they’re going to get to share what energizes them and what they might like to further explore with you. Some organizations I’ve worked with have offered up great tools like StrengthsFinder™, which allows individuals to explore their own strengths, learn about the strengths of others on their team and find better ways to work together. Having this self-awareness can give folks the ability to understand why maybe they often feel like they always need to find the absolute best solution for every problem (Maximizer) or why they can always tell when their colleagues are feeling discouraged or unmotivated without them even saying so (Empathy). Knowing your strengths and the strengths of those on your team will give any leader helpful perspectives of what makes their people tick.
Giving and Receiving Feedback – Spoiler alert: working alongside other humans is not always easy. There will always be misunderstandings and arguments, as well as opportunities to share great things you’re seeing, like “wow, I love what you’re doing. Keep going!” The ability to both give and receive feedback is crucial with a team when collaborating, but this shouldn’t just be the leader’s responsibility – help give your people a voice and the opportunity to share amongst themselves. Having a coach or educated party come in to give a workshop on how to do this thoughtfully and tactfully is a great way to let everyone get hands-on experience doing so by playing with different scenarios they may find themselves faced likely many times in their career. Getting a few simple tools under your belt can make all the difference. When we’re in those intense situations where we must share tough stuff with people, are we able to be vulnerable like Brene Brown preaches while also recalling the facts in hopes of improvement? In workshops I’ve often found success with the SBI tool – situation, behavior, impact. These simple categories for conversation allow feedback to be effective, respectful and tells a clear story without bias. If we’re going to have an important dialogue, let’s make sure we understand where each other is coming from.
Strong, transparent teams reflect strong communication and the ability to work with one another. The old analogy of “many heads are better than one” still exists because it’s true! Ask yourself: how can we experiment with collaboration? If we learn more about our market or our customers as a group, can we be cross functional? How does team health improve over time working together more? Collaboration only helps grow connections, and over time that connection builds trust.
This blog was written by our guest blogger Tara Swanson. Connect with her on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/tararogan/