One of the most important steps you can take as a leader is to facilitate collaboration within your team. Here are 5 steps you can take that will improve team communication, reduce conflict, build trust, enhance relationships and create a more positive work environment.
1. Provide team building opportunities. Poor communication and interaction is one of the most common issues on any team. This is problematic because no team can function effectively without strong communication and positive interaction. One way to address this problem is through team building activities that build trust and improve team performance. Team building serves six purposes:
* It helps teams clarify their purpose and goals.
* It allows teams to develop operating strategies and principles.
* It improves team communication and interaction.
* It improves team processes such as problem-solving, decision-making and conflict resolution.
* It enhances team leadership and leader skills.
* It improves overall team productivity and effectiveness.
2. Communicate with all team members in an open and honest manner. One of the most important qualities of any leader is genuineness, which refers to being open, honest and straightforward. It also pertains to being comfortable with who you are as a human being. Being genuine as a leader means that you are always honest with your team members and you actively work to create an open environment where the free exchange of ideas can take place. By doing this, your team will develop trust and will respond to you more positively in both good and bad situations.
3. Involve team members in problem-solving and decision-making. Involving team members provides three benefits. First, it helps them take ownership for the resolution of problems. By participating in the problem-solving process, members are actively involved in generating solutions and making decisions about how to implement those solutions. This increases the probability that the ultimate decision will be accepted by the team. Second, it brings more complete information and creativity to the problem-solving process. Instead of one or two people making decisions, team problem-solving brings a diverse array of ideas and data to the table which increases the likelihood that a successful solution can be identified. Finally, team members will have a greater opportunity to learn and to develop if they are active participants in the problem-solving and decision-making process.
4. Create a safe environment where team members can discuss issues and concerns. Staff will generally function more effectively in settings where they feel they can express themselves, offer opinions without rebuke, and engage in constructive dialogue about work issues. It is up to the team leader to see that this type of collaborative environment is both created and maintained. You can do this by engaging in the following activities:
* Provide structured, ongoing opportunities for members to discuss their issues and concerns. For example, you can have a monthly meeting where participants identify problems and discuss potential solutions.
* Encourage members to offer suggestions and ideas on a continuous basis, and then use those ideas. You can systematize this process with a suggestion system that allows members to offer ideas and rewards them for the suggestions that are implemented.
5. Challenge any non-collaborative behaviors. Another step you can take to create supportive environments is to confront any non-collaborative behaviors. Every team will have people who “act out” at one point or another. Sometimes this is relatively minor, while at other times it can be a serious problem. In either case you will need to discuss the behavior with the offending party to make sure it does not continue. Non-collaborative behaviors can include:
* Continuously interrupting members during a meeting.
* Yelling at teammates.
* Speaking poorly of others (e.g., talking behind someone’s back).
* Failing to engage in behaviors supportive of other members.
* Being insubordinate toward the team leader.
* Failing to complete work assignments in a timely and professional fashion.
* Complaining about decisions that have been made.
* Criticizing, fault-finding and backbiting.
* Using inappropriate humor or making off-color remarks.