Why Some Work Teams Collaborate Better Than Others

Mar 12, 2018


Why do some teams work well together while others don’t? It seems like such a simple question, but the secret to building a high-performing team is not so obvious. While some people point to a charismatic leader or a skilled communicator as the source of team cohesion, the most common element in great teams is a shared vision.

Collaboration is the art of working as a team. It involves a variety of processes, including communication, accountability, time management, and having the right people in the right roles. But even when all of those elements exist, if the team doesn’t share a vision of what success looks like, it will be tough to make progress.

Many organizations have corporate values or a vision statement that are posted on their website and are part of their brand. But truly exceptional organizations go beyond publishing those shared goals—they work to spread them throughout the organization so that they connect to the work of each employee. This process is part of creating an aligned corporate culture.

The secret behind true team collaboration

To be successful as a manager, you must have the ability to connect what your team does to the larger goals of the company, as well as to the goals and aspirations of the individuals on your team. That’s the secret to true collaboration. So what does it take to create that outcome?

There are three keys to successfully fostering a collaborative environment:

Organizational vision. To create a shared vision, you’ll need to find out what the values and goals of your organization are. This might be as easy as looking at the company website or talking to someone in the marketing department. But if it’s not obvious, you might be best advised to go straight to the top. If you can, talk to the founder or the members of the leadership team. Get to know what the organization values.

Individual goals. Each member of the team brings different goals and values to his or her role. A successful collaboration leverages the strengths of each individual, rather than being a simple division of labor. Get to know your team members. Find out what inspires them and why they get out of bed in the morning. Ask them what made them take the job in the first place. By understanding their goals and aspirations, you will learn what motivates them to do their best work.

Customer focus. No matter what industry you work in, or what your department does, at some point it serves a customer. Typically the organizational vision is tied directly to what customers or clients need. When you can see how your team’s work directly impacts the customer experience, you can often find a clue as to what success can and should look like for your team.

Once you’ve gathered these three perspectives, have a brainstorming session with your team. See if you can create a one- or two-sentence statement that defines how you and your team create value and what success looks like for you. That vision can be a great tool as you evaluate processes, delegate tasks, and develop a collaborative spirit within your team. When everyone on your team shares the same vision of success, and sees value in achieving that goal together, you can see and feel the difference in engagement and cooperation.

About The Author

Katy Tynan is an expert in the future of work. She is the author of How Did I Not See This Coming: The New Manager’s Guide to Avoiding Total Disaster (ATD Press, 2017) and Survive Your Promotion (Personal Focus Press, 2010). Tynan is the founder and chief talent strategist at Liteskip Consulting Group.