Synergy In The OfficeBY Laura Brown // Content Marketing Copywriter
Five steps to effective collaboration
Collaboration. The act of working with someone to create something. When you work together with other people, there’s more to keep track of than just yourself and things can get complicated quickly. There are multiple moving parts, more people working on pieces of the project, room for miscommunication, and chances for tasks to get lost. But, when everyone’s skills and strengths are combined, there’s also the same opportunity to build trust, have open communication, and create something bigger and better than what you could accomplish on your own. The difference between the two? Effective collaboration.
How do you avoid the unorganized cluster and pave the way for successful teamwork? Five steps. Five easy to follow points of action that will lay the framework for group projects and sharpen your team’s collaboration skills.
Step #1: Clarify Expectations
Before you dive headfirst into a group project, you have to lay the groundwork. It’s important to figure out exactly what it’s going to take to get it accomplished. Expectations are so important that we recognize it as one of the core pillars of how we deliver each day. It doesn’t matter if it’s a month-long campaign, or a simple task, setting expectations keeps everyone honest and on the same page.
Key questions to ask:
- What is the goal of the project?
- When is the deadline?
- Which team members need to be involved?
- How will success be measured?
Everyone in the group needs to understand the purpose of the project so they can get onboard and behind it.
Step #2: Schedule Time to Be Creative
Once the group is aligned, don’t skip straight to dividing up tasks and going your separate ways. Collaboration is about ideas coming together, and now is the time to do it.
Set a meeting on everyone’s calendar that’s dedicated specifically to getting creative. Allowing the group this freedom to take a concept and expand on it can be a game changer. We’re talking the difference of simply doing what’s asked by a client and blowing them out of the water.
One of my favorite days of the month is when our content team comes together to collaborate on ideas. Dubbed “Content Big Idea Brainstorm”, we set aside an hour to discuss a predetermined topic. To kick it off, we each present a few examples of work that’s inspired us recently which is a gateway to diving into the subject at hand. Whether it’s a project for an existing client or a potential client, no idea is too “out there.” There is complete creative freedom.
Not only does this time allow for us to use our imaginations, but it also allows all of us to sharpen our active listening skills, gives us a safe space to share our views, and the opportunity to speak up. These are all important principles to becoming a master collaborator.
Keys to a productive brainstorming session:
- Set clear intention and goals for the meeting
- Ask everyone to come prepared by doing prior research (ex: competitors, current industry trends)
- Take notes on key take-aways
Put that time on the team’s calendar and get the creative juices flowing.
Step #3: Create a Road Map
This is key in setting your team up for success – the road map. This is the moment to go over all the little details and figure out every single piece of the project. There are a lot of moving parts to a group project so when you’re collaborating, it’s important to figure out how each person’s specific task will affect the overall project. For instance person A and person B might be able to simultaneously work on their parts, but there’s no way person C can start until those two parts are complete.
This where project management tools are helpful. At Levelwing we use a task management tracking tool to organize and manage our projects. The web and mobile based platform allows us to layout a project, assign each team member certain tasks, and set deadlines. Everything from notes to resource links are in the same spot, allowing our team to stay aligned throughout the entire process. Anyone can go in at any given time and track the progress of the project.
Keys to organizing a road map:
- Work backwards—Begin the day the project is due and work backwards, setting deadlines up to the day your team starts working on it
- Allow time for changes
- Include an approval process and build in time for reviews
Organization is important in collaborating and making sure everyone stays aligned. This checklist makes sure all tasks are accounted for and that the project will be completed on time.
Step #4: Celebrate Success
Did you exceed the client’s expectation? Receive a new business contract? Regardless of the answer to these questions, there’s something to be said about celebrating your team getting the job done.
Take a moment to savor how your team collaborated and what you all accomplished.
Everyone likes to be recognized for doing their part, so just as important as it is to celebrate the overall win, you should make sure to recognize each member’s contribution to the assignment. This will make them feel valued and build their confidence.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day grind and go right from one project to the next. But no amount of work should go unnoticed, especially when you’re all putting in time together to get a task accomplished. Taking time to acknowledge these victories, no matter how big or small, helps boost overall morale and fosters a strong team relationship for the next time your team will collaborate on a project.
Keys to celebrating a win:
- Take time to share the win as a group – whether it’s a quick congratulatory high fives in the breakroom or an after-hours happy hour
- Make sure each person is acknowledged
Step #5: Assess The Good & The Bad
Don’t stop once the project is complete. Take time after it’s done to review the entire process and assess what went right and what areas your team could improve on. Was person A’s deadline too close to person C, not allowing person C enough time to get his/her part done? Did there need to be a task added to streamline another task?
Collaborating is all about working together efficiently and there are always areas the team can improve upon to make the process better.
Key questions to ask:
- What were the teams overall strengths/weaknesses?
- How can the team become more efficient?
The underlying factor in each of these steps is communication. Collaboration and communication go hand in hand in hand. In fact, you can’t successfully have one without the other. Between satellite offices and working from home, the work environment is constantly changing. You have to adjust and adapt. For instance, forget relying solely on email and use technology to your advantage to schedule time for face-to-face meetings over collaborative platforms.
It’s important to learn how to work well together as a team with your fellow employees. Follow these simple guidelines for effective collaboration and you’ll be celebrating a win together in no time.