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If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself. — Henry Ford

As we embark upon 2020 and make a new resolution to succeed in the new year, we must remind ourself that we can not succeed without working with others. Collaboration and teamwork have been a survival strategy since we evolved into Homosapience; nonetheless, it is more critical now as the challenges are mounting and our world is becoming more complex.

As per one of the McKinsey survey, 97% of employees feel that lack of alignment of goals and teamwork results in projects failure. The same survey also finds 86% of employees find that lack of communication and collaboration are causes of workplace failure and issues.

It is not sufficient to realize collaboration is important. For today’s leader, the major challenge is how to make collaboration work in the organization as the competition in the workplaces intensifies. Following are four effective strategies for the business leader to facilitate collaboration in the team and across the organization:

  1. Make it easy: Like anything else, collaboration needs time and effort. Connecting and working with other ay require extra time or familiarity with technologies. Use of enabling technology can be helpful, whether it is proprietary software or off the shelf ones such as Dropbox or Skype.

If an employee is not confident with the technology, provide them with someone to turn for help, rather than just self-help tools and user guides. This is not spoon-feeding but facilitating collaboration and interaction, which goes a long way.

2.       Appreciate, recognize and reward collaboration – Generally, competition and collaboration do not go hand in hand. Employees refuse help from colleagues, don’t want to feel obligated to return the favour, want to be seen self-reliant and some don’t trust the help of a coworker. Employees often see the offer of help with suspicion and doubt the intention behind that. In the long term, it raises the risk of burn out, builds the wall and creates silos.

It is the leaders’ responsibility to break the myth that asking for help is a sign of incompetence and it makes the beneficiary any smaller being. Leaders should more often exchange help with others, as this will leave a good example for employees to follow and will provide insurance against insecurity.

Additionally, make a point by encouraging and rewarding the right behaviour. Employees notice the traits and the people who are recognised, rather than what is said.

3.      Work with your rivals – Walk the talk. Compete with a sense of mutual and collaborative growth. Extreme competitiveness, some time confused with “healthy competition” can create a brutal culture, and may hold you back from performing at your best. Exchange of knowledge, ideas, and feedback help to learn from each other and leverage upon the experience successes and failures of others. Sharing feedback from a complex project with your colleagues can help open up and also receive equally valuable feedback in reciprocation. Of course, this can be risky as well; hence one needs to be careful where to draw the line.

4.      Create an environment of trust – This can be done by reducing the culture of getting the feedback from a grapevine, discouraging the gossip about employees, show trust in your team and colleagues and be consistent in approach. As a manager, one can give credit when due, appreciate the work and input and become the partner in their growth to cultivate the trust, which will in-turn provides mental security to employees and create a conducive environment for collaboration.

In essence, a business leader should remember that it all starts with them. Any amount of training, communication and reminders on collaboration will not work until they work on it and lead by example. Collaboration is not optional but the need for any 21st-century knowledge-based organisation.

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