The Harvard Business review states that it is becoming increasingly important to work together in teams. In the past two decades, we’ve spent a wobbling 50 % more time on collaborative work compared to 20 years ago. Therefore, it is important that we develop and maintain skill sets to properly get along and work together with all colleagues, also the ones that we do not necessarily like all that much. There are always a few of those around, aren’t there?
So what can we do to improve and focus on our team work skills?
Working together is an art
One of the advantages of working together is that you don’t perform work twice. It also helps when information is widely available, so this can be combined into new products. Therefore, widely available information helps to spark innovation.
However, it can be quite difficult to communicate with every colleague effectively. You can have an overly critical colleague which drives you nuts, yet he or she can still be vital for your job or performance review. Therefore, it is important to make sure you get to know your colleagues better, at least professionally. It really helps when you know the core professional values of your colleagues or stakeholders.
When you’re having trouble to work together with a specific colleague, you can still make sure that the colleague gets out of the professional relation what he or she needs. In that way, you can still build report with that person. Besides, how much effort does it really take to ask how someone’s weekend was? Asking these kind of small questions once in a while can already help to improve the working relationship.
And when communication does break down, which at some point it will inevitably will from my own experience, you can always reach out to the person to apologize for whatever you did wrong. This can be difficult, I know, but it shows the other person you’re committed to make the cooperation work.
Building trust to improve teamwork
Organizations are getting increasingly flat. Therefore, you cannot rely on your position alone to get what you need and to advance in the organization. Both status and trust are earned and they don’t come with the job just because you may be a manager.
How do you earn trust?
The answer to this question is easy, but it is hard to do. Deliver work consistently in time and with good quality.
Yeah yeah, all fun and games you say, but what if my deadlines are too tight? Indeed, this is what’s difficult about it. You have to manage expectations, which means in some occasions turning down good opportunities or disappointing people in the moment.
Once you’ve built trust, it is easier to work together with your colleagues as they know what you are capable of and they know you get the job done. And even people who don’t get along with you may have trust in your work and abilities when you are consistent.
How about other disciplines?
Another smart thing to do is to work together with people outside of your department. This will increase the possibility you gain knowledge that somebody from your department is not aware of. If you only work with people in your own department, it’s likely you don’t have more knowledge than your direct colleagues. Moreover, when your network in your organization is broader, you increase the chances of being promoted or to move sideways in a more interesting job.
Too much collaboration…
There is a pitfall however in all this increased cooperation. When people are both very competent and willing to share, they get pulled into an increasing number of projects. Also, they get a lot of questions from other colleagues. 20 to 35% of the collaborations that add the most value to companies comes from only 3 to 5% of the employees.
The danger is that these competent employees get too many questions and requests, leaving them spread too thin and in the end making them into bottlenecks of the organization. This gets them into a vicious cycle which causes them to be less engaged than other employees and unnoticed by managers for career opportunities.
When you are such an employee therefore, make sure to set your boundaries. This way, you can get the most innovation out of your collaboration. Setting priorities and freeing up space to think are essential to achieve this.
– Harvard Business Review: collaborative overload
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