Getting Your Team To Collaborate With Others – 7 Keys To Cross Team Collaboration
By Douglas R. Gerber, Author of The Book Team Quotient
One of the key goals as a leadership team is moving to high “TQ” or “Team Quotient”. That means scoring highly on the eight key elements a high performance team; clear vision, values, identity, trust, fun, effectiveness, results focus, and alignment. Once you have made progress with your TQ, and your team collaborates well internally, several things may happen.
The team may start to compare itself with other departments. Business teams, just as sports teams, will naturally compare themselves with others. Some competitive ‘us vs. them’ mentality may crop up, resulting in less than optimal collaboration across teams – leading to what we call ‘silo mentality’. This mentality allows the team to work in separate silos or independent units with only cursory regard for other units or teams. Rarely do teams reflect on how they can collaborate externally for better results; rather, many teams move into criticizing or blaming other departments for not achieving the team result. It's a convenient excuse and absolves them from taking responsibility.
In fact, collaboration across teams is one of the more advanced states of any organization. It is definitely not a natural phenomenon and takes resolve, intention and execution to make it work. Let’s look at how teams can encourage and foster collaboration with other units.
Get your own house in order – make sure that you have achieved decent collaboration within your own team. This takes time and effort. Only then should you focus on collaborating with other teams.
Why should we collaborate? Unless there is an imperative, collaboration won’t happen on a consistent basis. Engaging a team discussion on “why collaboration across functions is essential for the continued success of the team and the organization” is paramount. All members need to be aligned around this need. The idea is to get members to realize that without effective collaboration they will be unable to progress as desired. Make collaboration one of the those behaviors that gets measured and talked about.
Which key stakeholder teams require collaboration? Getting alignment around which teams to target collaborative efforts is useful. Within this step the team can also identify difficult individuals and how to manage them.
Collaborate on what? Remember, collaboration happens for a reason – you need something to collaborate on. Identifying those essential projects or areas will create the required focus. Without those solid projects, there will be no imperative for cross function collaboration.
Talk it over with other teams – usually this can start with two team leaders aligning on the areas of collaboration, followed as required by discussions by members of both teams. Sometimes getting the two teams together for fun time, activities, drinks, etc., can go a long way to opening up members.
Leaders should recognize successful collaboration efforts in their team…it’s not easy to collaborate effectively and it takes effort and skill. Recognizing them publicly will reinforce the behaviors that you want.
Likewise, ensure that your team members recognize team members in other departments for successful collaboration. I worked with a general manager in the fashion industry who frequently recognized people from other teams. She developed the reputation as an unselfish, caring, and inspirational leader. Remember, people like recognition, regardless where it comes from!
Moving beyond silo mentality to collaboration across teams starts with your own team. Don’t rush into figuring it out with others until it becomes second nature within your team. Once you are ready, define the why, who and what of collaborating, then start the dialog across teams. Afterwards, reflect and recognize. Following this sequence will ensure successful execution of this higher level skill.
Leaders are only as good as the teams they build!