Teamwork and Collaboration – Why They Need to be Nurtured
Teamwork and collaboration are essential to the smooth running of organisations. That may be stating the obvious, but it is remarkable how many businesses lose the collaboration instinct over time. Teamwork should always be considered a work in progress. It requires constant tending to truly flourish.
The benefits of teamwork are well known. Put simply, one brain might solve a problem one way. Ten brains working together might come up with a better way – or several – and in much less time.
When people collaborate, good things tend to happen. They approach issues from different angles, identifying different challenges and opportunities. Each individual brings their own knowledge and experience to the task in hand, allowing them to see things that others might not. In professional services, collaboration between provider and client is crucial to a successful relationship.
All of these benefits are important for business, so why do some organisations end up collaborating less over time? There are several possible reasons:
- Siloed thinking. Teams and departments focus on their own results, not those of the business. That makes them less likely to work with others.
- The loudest voice wins. Within teams, the most forthright or demonstrative members often hold sway. The voices of less confident members are drowned out.
- Some measure of competition is fine, but an overly competitive environment – between teams or individuals – stifles collaborative instincts.
- If organisational leaders don’t value collaboration, they don’t encourage it and don’t invest in the systems and processes that nurture it.
- Dispersed teams. Hybrid working models, if not managed well, can limit the opportunities for teams to collaborate.
There are others, but the results are the same. When teams fail, businesses suffer. The Centre for Corporate and Professional Development at Kent State University in Ohio, US, perhaps puts it best – “The failure of a team can start for a number of reasons, but the consequences are the same: factions are formed, battle lines are drawn, communication stops and suspicion rises. Productivity and efficiency drop off sharply.”*
How to Keep Collaborating
How do business leaders stop this from happening? How do they embed teamwork and collaboration into the DNA of their organisations?
Most importantly, they should emphasise common goals. That means commercial goals, but also the firm’s ambitions in other areas. For example, solid Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and inclusivity policies can help to create a collaborative environment.
Leaders should lead by example. Be open to ideas and opinions. Speak and listen to staff individually or, if the organisation is large, survey them regularly and acknowledge their contributions.
Smooth channels of communication are essential for successful teamwork. Create feedback loops that staff can use to communicate ideas, challenges and opportunities to managers. If necessary, invest in technology – project management and teamwork apps, for instance – that allows team members to communicate easily with each other even if they are not in the same building.
Encourage team leaders to listen to the thoughts and ideas of even their most reticent team members. You never know where the next great idea will come from. A typical roundtable full team meeting might not be the right platform for everyone. If that’s the case, consider smaller, more informal group chats where everyone has the chance to contribute.
In addition, demolish silo walls. Implement systems and processes across the organisation that encourage knowledge sharing between departments.
All Ideas Are Valid
All this should go hand in hand with a no blame culture. Employees will not come forward with thoughts and ideas if they think it will cost them, in terms of reputation or progression. Emphasise that all ideas are valid, and that a continual flow of idea sharing is essential for business and their clients’ success.
This is true for teams and offices, and also across organisations. UHY is a large global network, and we encourage collaboration between firms through a calendar of regional and international events, subject-specific Special Interest Groups, and the promotion of cross-border secondments and other, more informal, inter-firm links. We understand that collaboration across borders is as essential to our success, and that of our clients, as the teamwork within member firms.
Successful businesses need a shared vision, a continual flow of thoughts and ideas to which everyone is comfortable contributing, and mutual trust. These things do not always come naturally, but there is much that business leaders can do to nurture the collaborative instinct.
For more information, contact Alan Farrelly, Managing Director, UHY Farrelly Dawe White Limited firstname.lastname@example.org
* Centre for Corporate and Professional Development at Kent State University in Ohio, US https://www.kent.edu/yourtrainingpartner/what-do-you-lose-when-teamwork-fails