This past month, I moderated a panel on developing high-performing teams with a focus on fostering collaboration. It was an interesting conversation and we had various successes in achieving this goal. It boils down to how much uncertainty has been inserted into our organizations. It can be hard to bring people together when there are so many variables outside of our organizations that we are contending for as leaders.
To add to the complexities of our new work realities, working in a hybrid world. If communications are frequently misunderstood or confusing, then we can frustrate our teams. And if we don’t shift our behaviors to meet this new demand, we can create anxiety in our organizations that can become costly, affecting morale, engagement, productivity, and innovation.
I have found in working with clients and based on my experience, there are five key skills we can all utilize to be more effective leaders in these times of change.
Effective collaboration skills:
Trust (vulnerability & psychological safety)
I know there is much more to trust than what I am pointing out here, but I have also found that if we, as leaders, can focus on getting these two things right it will take us a long way toward building trust with our teams. I focus on vulnerability because employees are demanding a more humanistic approach to our workplace. The research is showing employees respond better to authentic leaders. People like real leaders. If they think you are being genuine in your thoughts and feelings, they are more willing to trust what you have to say is reliable and that goes a long way in our current reality. The same thing is true in bringing psychological safety to our team environments. If employees feel included, they will feel like they can bring their true selves to work. Without repercussions or fear of sharing perspectives or experiences with the team, it builds a different dynamic that will allow more engagement.
Communication (clear and transparent around business priorities, vision and purpose, use of technology).
Unfortunately, I’ve seen many leaders who have a seeming disconnect between what they say and what they do. We are all wired to detect that disconnect very quickly which erodes trust quickly. Effective communication is not just in what we say or put in an email but in our actions and how we react at any given moment. We are all using more technologies to foster better collaboration; however, it can get complicated fast. If you have too many avenues to send or house information, your team may not be clear on where to find that information or which platform is appropriate. I have worked with leaders to understand how they leverage technology to enable better communications with their teams. Just because you send an email, especially around sensitive topics, does not mean your message will get across or be clear. You need to be willing to pick your communication medium to match what is appropriate for that message or leverage multiple avenues to increase visibility and collaboration.
Adaptability (leading through change and transformation)
Stephen Hawking said that “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” We are in a period of unpredictable transformation and change. Leaders who embrace change and build resilience in their teams be more prepared to face the challenges of the drive of technological change. Leaders also need to understand that there will be resistance to how workplaces are evolving and how organizations are transforming to keep up with this constant change. We will need to communicate well and use influence to drive changes. Every industry and sector will be impacted by changes so it will be a universal skill that organizations will seek to be successful in pushing innovations forward.
Conflict management (navigate through opposition- mutual understanding & purpose)
Leaders need to hear others’ perspectives and viewpoints without judgment. You may not agree or be able to accommodate all viewpoints, but people need to be seen and heard. Active listening is a huge part of the conflict as everyone has their unique perspectives and filters of what they are hearing. If you can share why something is important and align it to the organization’s purpose, it can help to gain a mutual understanding for most to get behind and drive it forward.
Encourage teamwork (leverage each other’s strengths, learn from each other)
When I think about high-performing teams I’ve been a part of, I also felt each person’s strengths were valued and encouraged. We all bring various life and career experiences that can be valuable to share and learn from while building the capabilities of our teams. I also find those with a growth mindset do well in learning from others and building their skills.
Not every task or situation requires collaboration every day but understanding where it is important can make a difference. I frame my mind around the “collaboration essential” by asking two questions:
- Why are these team members’ collaboration essential to achieving their business results?
- What work, which specific tasks, would require collaboration to deliver results? [working together as a team better than the sum of your efforts]
The best teams and clients I’ve worked with have a shared understanding of how and when to get work done. One effective way I’ve found in solidifying it is to build a team charter that outlines operating principles around communications, decision making, conflict resolution strategies, and individual behaviors. I found in co-creating these principles, can go a long way to building that high-performing team we all desire to work for in our teams.