Benchmark Business Group

How to use collaboration successfully

April 9, 2019

We have all heard the adage, “Two heads are better than one.”

In business, the way to make the most out of two (or more) heads, is by collaborating - having a discussion with your team on their ideas and experiences within your business. 

When you collaborate with your team, there is a collection of minds with the purpose of improving the business. This can generate ideas to grow your business, improve processes for efficiency and increase profitability.

For effective collaboration in any business, there needs to be a foundation and environment which requires you to:

Adapt an “Open to Input” Mindset

The mindset needed for collaboration requires you to be open to the potential, intellect and talent of your team. This mindset is demonstrated by welcoming ideas, no matter how busy or distracted you or your team may be.

You should encourage your team to challenge the way things are done. Do this by asking questions to start conversations and drawing out everyone to participate in discussions. Questions such as:

  • “What problems do you see with this in the future?”
  • “In what way will this make your role easier or more difficult?”
  • “How would this change or impact our bottom line?”

If leaders and managers have done more telling than listening in your business, you may have to change both your way of thinking and that of your team. Collaboration takes place in environments where these four dynamics exist:

  1. information is shared
  2. team members acknowledge each other’s strengths
  3. goals and expectations are clear
  4. individual ideas and insights are welcomed

Take a quick survey with your team and ask them to rate, on a scale from 1 to 10, the degree to which these four dynamics exist in their workplace. Then based on the results, put the four dynamics into action by setting a meeting to:

  • share the survey results and have an open conversation to discuss what is missing, or exists in the workplace that could be improved
  • ask each team member to write down one strength for every other team member, then collectively share the results and discuss how each individual's strengths add value to the business and could be leveraged by others
  • review business goals and discuss how often the team should be updated on progress to goals – ask if there are any questions on what team members should expect from each other; if so, simply list them and tell the team you’ll schedule another meeting to collaborate on how to clarify expectations
  • ask for ideas on ways for individuals to vocalize their ideas, and explore if there are specific times when it’s a good idea to purposefully gather other's input

Going from zero collaboration to holding an open meeting asking for ideas and opinions can be uncomfortable, so if your team isn’t used to being asked for input, start slow! Perhaps just doing one of the suggestions above.

Regardless of where you’re starting, the role of a leader is ASK/LISTEN, and to be open to hearing everything while remaining neutral. This ensures every idea can be expressed and your team feels their input is valued.

Set Your Team Up For Success

Some businesses find success with collaboration by establishing the forum to bring ideas to the table. This can be done anonymously with a suggestion box, or in team meetings specifically held for sharing new ideas and brainstorming.

Nurturing an environment of collaboration will become more natural if your business structure encourages and asks for input and ideas. It can be done as simply as adding the Agenda item "my idea for improving how we work" to existing meetings. Or, make it an intentional decision to ask for input. For example, in either a one-on-one meeting or team meeting take time to pose questions that open doors to collaborating on ideas for improving work, products/services; e.g. “what would have made your job easier last week”, or “what could we have prevented”, or “what’s a small action we could take to give our clients a better experience”?

Collaborative conversations can be added to most meetings. We encourage meetings that are driven by the employees, where they come prepared to share their experiences and ideas. When you let your employees know you value their ideas and appreciate their input, your business improves and grows!

We challenge you to check your “Open to Input” mindset and how intentional collaboration is designed, and defined, in your business. 

Add the necessary structure to stimulate collaboration; then, communicate and encourage collaboration to unleash the potential of your business through all the multiple heads that make up your team.

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