Team collaboration: why it’s important and how to build a collaborative team
Last updated on: January 10, 2022
Team collaboration occurs when team members work together to achieve the same business goals. Each member of a collaborative team has a unique skill set. Thanks to these distinctive abilities, teammates are able to approach any problem from diverse angles. Thus, their team collaboration helps them work towards their common goals.
In this blog post, we’ll cover the subject of collaboration in a team, as well as the following issues:
- differences between team collaboration and teamwork,
- different collaboration skills,
- the importance of team collaboration, and
- how to build team collaboration.
What is the difference between team collaboration and teamwork? ?
Before we start exploring the matter of team collaboration, let’s clarify two major differences between team collaboration and teamwork:
- Roles within the team
Collaboration gathers a group of colleagues who join their forces to solve a problem or complete a task. The focus is on a group effort and how to figure out the solution as a collective. For example, during the brainstorming sessions, team members are in the same room (or same video call), discussing an issue and trying to fix an issue as a team.
On the contrary, teamwork refers to a group of individuals. Each of them has particular responsibilities. Thus, they put in their individual efforts. For instance, when a basketball team wins a game, it means that everyone on the team played well. Every basketball player did his/her part perfectly, so the results are positive.
In a collaborative team, usually, there are no leaders. Yet, this is not the case with teamwork.
💡 To learn more about teamwork in the workplace, we advise you to read our in-depth blog on this topic.
Now, let’s discover the skills essential for collaboration.
What are the three types of collaboration skills?
Every collaborative team member is an expert in their own field. This way, a collaborative team analyzes any issue from different perspectives. Regardless of their differences, having the same values and objectives in mind is the glue that’s keeping a collaborative team together.
Collaboration doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and effort to get to know your teammates and establish a proper working relationship. More importantly, you’ll need to gain collaboration skills.
Now, collaboration skills can be divided into three categories:
- communication skills,
- emotional intelligence, and
- respect for diversity.
Communication skills 💬
Proper communication plays a key role in any relationship. In the work setting, you can communicate with your colleagues in person or by using written forms. Either way, be sure to choose your words carefully.
First, think about what you’re going to say to your coworkers and how you’re going to say it. If you disagree with someone, try to express your opinions respectfully.
In the case of written communication, you won’t be able to see the colleague you’re reaching out to. Therefore, before you send your message, read it again and put yourself in the receiver’s shoes. How would you understand that message? If needed, tweak the tone of the message.
Aside from verbal communication, your tone of voice and body language tell a lot about the message you want to send. For example, arm-crossing is usually considered a defensive act.
Finally, learn to be an active listener. If you don’t understand what your coworkers are saying, feel free to ask for explanations.
Emotional intelligence ❤️
Emotional intelligence is a skill that helps you sense your emotions and manage them, but also quickly identify how others are feeling at the moment. Let’s say that your colleague is moody the entire day. This can be the sign that he’s either extremely tired or he needs some help at work. The more you get to know your coworkers, the better you will be at reading these signs.
If you want to work on these skills, here are a few basic tips for you:
- Show more empathy and compassion,
- don’t get offended easily,
- don’t take criticism personally, and
- show resilience.
In case you’re interested in more details about this subject, try reading some of the best books on emotional intelligence.
Respect for diversity 🧕🧔🏿👩🧔🏻
If you’re working in a multicultural team, this is the skill you’ll need to improve. To be able to work closely with your cross-cultural colleagues, be sure to show respect for any type of diversity. Also, avoid discrimination of any kind.
Collaboration thrives in the work setting that encompasses:
- open communication,
- being sensitive to ethnic and religious backgrounds,
- establishing consensus,
- promoting group discussions, and
- promoting an environment where every team member can share their opinions.
By nurturing these three types of skills, you and your colleagues will feel more comfortable working with each other. Therefore, your collaboration will advance as well.
Why is team collaboration important?
Here are the major reasons why a good collaboration is important in any team.
Good team collaboration encourages problem-solving
A good collaboration can help teammates reach a decision they all agree on. Moreover, this decision is in line with team and company goals. Let’s elaborate on this.
In a collaborative team, there are experts in various fields. They work side by side to accomplish the company’s goals. But, each of them brings a unique perspective to the table. So, whenever a company has to make a crucial decision, experts can express their own opinions and explain in-depth:
- their professional standpoint on a subject matter,
- how their own expertise and experience can help, and
- how they suggest the problem should be solved.
When a collaborative team starts working together, there is a variety of individual minds and views. But, once they discuss the topic, they’ll adopt some ideas and reject others. Thus, there’s going to be one collective mind – one common decision.
Let’s use an example. The XYZ company wants to create an official website. So, company management decides to gather their team of experts who will come up with the best solution. The team includes:
- Project manager – his job is to set the budget for this task, assign tasks and deadlines, and to make sure everyone follows these rules.
- Web developer – her job is to create a website layout, perform website updates, and take care of any technical issues that may arise.
- Web designer – his job is to set design guidelines, present the website structure, and come up with the most creative design solutions.
- Marketing manager – her job is to create written content for website pages, make sure that content is SEO friendly and easy to read.
- QA engineer – his job is to analyze if all requirements (business, technical, and others) are met, as well as to review the quality control of the entire website.
The entire team has one common goal – to create a website that’s functional and easy to use. Since these team members collaborate with each other, they feel free to express their ideas. So, if the QA engineer notices an issue, he can report it to the web developer, so it can be fixed. The entire team works side by side to make the website perfect, which is their common goal.
Collaborative teams have a broader perspective
Having team members who come from diverse backgrounds means hearing diverse opinions on a subject. So, instead of approaching a problem from one angle, your team will be able to see a bigger picture.
Let’s use the example from our previous tip. For instance, a marketing manager comes up with an interesting idea for the “Our staff” section on the website. She wants to add a brief bio for all employees in the company, along with their pictures. But, if a website layout doesn’t allow creating this type of content, a web developer and web designer will point out this issue. Then, the team will find a better solution for the “Our staff” section.
You see, only when you gather everyone’s knowledge and efforts, can you see a broader perspective.
Effective collaboration enables knowledge sharing
You and your colleagues can learn from each other while collaborating. During your team gatherings, you’ll be sharing ideas, viewpoints, and experiences. Thus, team collaboration opens a new world of knowledge both to you and your coworkers.
So, in our example with the “Our staff” section, a marketing manager discovered that, when writing content for the site, she has to think about website layout and other technical possibilities of the website. At the same time, a web designer and a web developer discovered how website content should look like.
Apart from learning, collaboration gives you an opportunity to acquire new or develop the skills you already have.
Collaboration improves employee happiness and company culture
In a collaborative team, employees feel valued because they’re all equal. Whether you’re working as a project manager, QA engineer, or web developer, your opinions will be as important as your colleague’s standpoints.
This employee equality also means that you’ll be happier in the workplace. Moreover, when you’re happy, it’s likely that you’ll stay with the company longer.
How do you build team collaboration?
A good collaboration is the result of the entire team, not individuals. So, here are some effective ways to build a collaborative team:
- Establish common objectives,
- set expectations,
- set standards,
- focus on individual strengths,
- foster fresh ideas,
- create a trustworthy and trustful environment,
- use collaboration tools,
- arrange only necessary meetings,
- honor collaboration, and
- organize casual gatherings after work.
We’ll now cover each step with more details.
Establish common objectives 🎯
It’s essential that everyone on the team is on the same page when it comes to company goals, but also team goals. You’ll need to have a mutual understanding of the team’s vision in order to act in accordance with that vision.
So, how to do that? By communicating often and properly. Team meetings are great for sharing ideas, views, and figuring out the common objectives.
In line with the previous tip, setting expectations is vital, too. Team members need to know what their obligations are so that they can focus on accomplishing these tasks the best they can.
Set standards ✔️
Once everyone in the team knows what they’re expected to do, you become responsible for completing these assignments. In addition, setting standards is crucial for the team’s success.
These standards can include:
- Deciding on the tool you’ll use for managing projects and taking care of your tasks.
- Deciding how to delegate the workload equally and how to set deadlines.
If some team members have too much on their plates, they’ll be overwhelmed and nervous. As you can imagine, this is where emotional intelligence comes in handy, for detecting early signs of burnout and preventing it.
In addition, one of the best ways to keep all the pieces together is to establish the rule of tracking your work hours with Clockify – a team time management app. This way, everyone on the team will be required to monitor time and write down daily tasks.
Plus, in the Dashboard section, you can see how an entire team organizes their time, what everyone is working on currently, and what they have worked on. As you can see below, the Dashboard also gives you a clear overview of the project progress.
Focus on individual strengths 💪
We mentioned earlier that getting to know your teammates is beneficial for many reasons. One of the reasons is that you’ll discover the individual strengths of each team member. For example, one colleague might be great with people, while the other excels at making templates of any kind.
So, be sure to capitalize on these amazing qualities. Moreover, use these strengths to achieve your team goals. For instance, next time you need to find someone for handling an initial call with a new client, choose the colleague who’s socially confident.
Foster fresh ideas 💡
Team meetings should be a safe place for exchanging ideas. Encourage your team to present their ideas because any idea that can contribute to the team’s progress is welcome. Even when these opinions spark disagreements, it’s likely that you’ll come up with better solutions during the debate.
Create a trustworthy and trustful environment 🤝
Trust is a two-way street. Team members need to feel like they can trust each other but be reliable themselves. Once you create such an environment, you’ll improve your relationships and manage your workload without any issue.
Here’s an example. If you’re waiting for a colleague to complete her part of the task and she finishes it on time, you’ll do your part of work on time, too. Thus, you’ll collaborate with each other with ease.
But, if you happen to experience any issues while working on a shared task, let your colleagues know so they can help you figure it out together. By doing so, you’ll prevent delays and improve team time management. Plus, you’ll show your trustworthiness.
Use collaboration tools 📱
Let’s face it, with so many practical apps out there, you don’t need to struggle with collaboration. Apart from time tracking and the afore-mentioned Clockify, you can find additional tools that will assist you in:
- managing tasks, like Trello;
- communicating with the team, like Slack;
- scheduling meetings, like Doodle; and
- sharing files, like WeTransfer.
To help you find what you need, we compiled a detailed list of the best online collaboration tools.
Arrange only necessary meetings 👔
When it comes to team meetings, be sure to think twice before you schedule one. If there’s a major project update and you need to discuss it with the team, holding a meeting is an ideal choice. In this case, remember to create a meeting agenda and send it to your colleagues, so they can prepare before the meeting starts. Then again, if you only want to pass on some information, opt for an email.
By holding only essential meetings, you and your team will have more time to work together on completing vital tasks.
Honor collaboration 🙌
Just like positive feedback boosts employee morale and motivation, so does honoring a good team collaboration. Whenever you notice good examples of collaboration within the team, be sure to praise them. For instance, you can send an email to all team members or talk about these examples in your team meetings.
Organize casual gatherings after work 🥳
Spending some time with your colleagues outside an office can help you bond. If you’ve never tried this with your team, start with baby steps. Go for a drink after work and see how it goes. Next time, select an all-day event.
We suggest discussing this matter with the entire team. You can even select your activity by voting.
And remember, don’t force these events, or organize them too often. Instead of having a gathering every week, try once a month. That way, your colleagues can have a better work-life balance.
Have you noticed what these ten tips have in common? Their shared values are:
- Transparent and honest communication,
- caring about what other colleagues think and how they feel, and
- showing respect for any type of diversity.
Hence, these three skills are the essence of any good collaboration and these ten steps show you how to put your collaboration skills to good use.
Team collaboration fosters problem-solving and helps you and your coworkers approach any topic from diverse perspectives. Furthermore, it promotes sharing knowledge and skills within the team.
But, keep in mind that team collaboration is not a one-man job. It takes an entire team and everyone’s efforts to build collaboration. To help you make that process easier, we covered a list of the most practical ways to achieve collaboration. We hope you’ll soon be able to experience all the benefits of working in a collaborative team.
To improve team collaboration and productivity, you can use a free team messaging app like Pumble.