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Henley Leadership Group Blog

The Secret To Cohesive Collaboration

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Let’s face it, working with people isn’t always easy. People get tangled up and judge each other. Team members gossip with colleagues about people who annoy them at work. As if collaboration weren’t already tough enough, now we may not even be in the same room with one another.

You may get frustrated when a job isn’t done right. You might even entertain the idea that it would be easier to just do it yourself. However, leaders are facing unprecedented complexities in this new world. That old saying that none of us is smart as all of us still holds true. Leaders need the power of the team in organizations. And you need higher levels of collective skill to meet these complexities. 

True collaboration — especially in the hybrid work world — takes a whole new level of skill within each of these five critical elements:

Create a compelling why

Teams flounder when members are unsure why they’re doing what they’re doing or how it fits into the larger scheme of things. Leaders of highly collaborative teams consistently communicate why, and for what, people are giving their time, talent and energy. This compelling why reminds them of the bigger aspiration they’re part of.

A well-crafted and compelling why has a powerful and irresistible effect. Team members feel like they are on a mission, and that drives them to work together and draw on their collective talent and creativity in service of the task at hand.

Build trust

To collaborate, teams often need to learn about the importance of building trust — and repairing it where it's missing or languishing. Co-workers don’t have to like each other to work together, but they can and must develop trust for one another. In great teams, the cultivation of trust begins with hiring talented people and putting the right person in the right job. When the person and the task are well-matched, great things can happen. Trust grows within teams from the recognition of work done well. 

In teams with trust, there’s a recognition that each member is there because they are good at what they do. There is also the recognition that success comes from an ability to work together toward a higher purpose, so petty differences do not arise. But that doesn’t mean that there are never any differences. Collaborative team leaders devote time to creating a culture rooted in trust and where conflicts can be resolved in healthy ways.

Be inclusive

Inclusion is the cultivation of an environment where all team members feel welcomed, respected, supported and valued to fully participate. An inclusive team intentionally welcomes and incorporates the contributions of all team members to voice diverse perspectives, work through dissent and inform the work of the team. 

Have productive breakdowns

As difficult as breakdowns and failure are, they are inevitable for teams that are stretching and growing and making a difference. How breakdowns and failure are dealt with speaks to how successful a team will be in reaching its goals.

A breakdown simply suggests that it's time to try another way. At the moment of failure, a team can gain access to new levels of creativity. This is why, when faced with a setback, extraordinary teams lift themselves up, and engage productively together. They learn from what's happening. They don’t dwell on the breakdown except as something to learn from. Because they trust each other, they can stay focused on fulfilling their compelling why and venture into the unknown, learning along the way.

Voice what's good

Most teams fail to celebrate small wins, and the impact can be devastating — a team cycles towards overwhelm and languishes under a never-ending workload. Voicing what’s good is all about intentionally shifting your focus to what's good, what's working and what there is to appreciate. The way most of us listen without much thought is to notice what's missing, what's broken and what remains to be done. Looking for and voicing what's good provides lift and inspiration. 

These five elements take practice and attention. But the payoff is well worth it. You will have a team that is much more skilled in collaboration and able to tackle complex issues with skill and grace.

Previously published on Forbes