Five tips for effective team collaboration


Collaboration isn’t just about getting things done, it’s about getting things done better.

While we all aim to ‘play nicely’ together around the boardroom table, collaborating effectively in the workplace doesn’t come without its challenges.

We recently conducted a survey that found that two thirds of Australian businesses struggle to use collaboration tools effectively.

This is why when it comes to boosting collaboration, using visual tools to generate ideas with your team can provide even more benefits, including improved team alignment and increased ownership of the team’s ideas.

The workplace is riddled with different agendas, egos and conflicting goals, so it is the role of the facilitator/project owner to be aware of the pitfalls and artfully navigate their team to success.

Making the most of this visual mapping of concepts is a great way to help get everyone on the same page – it demonstrates that everyone is being heard, allows overlapping ideas to be eliminated and means the strongest ideas can be easily prioritised.

In order to drive this engagement further, here are a few ideas to help you with the process:

Clarify your intentions

Are you solving a problem? Looking to innovate? Defining your strategy? These are all great examples of when you could employ visual mapping with your team. Be clear with your intentions.

Consider how you will go about setting the tone. How will you foster inclusiveness and ensure each team member has had an opportunity to contribute?

Take some time to understand how you and your staff operate and discern the best approach for facilitating your team meeting.

Be conscious of your language

What you say will reveal your thought processes. If you think a problem is unsolvable or a waste of time, that will show in the meeting. Your choice of words will either encourage or halt progress. Are you cutting down ideas too soon? This will ultimately discourage participation – even if you know the ideas will not be used in the long run.

Try not to counter or argue but rather build off the momentum and encourage more ideas to flow.

Break it down into smaller parts

They say that the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time – breaking your challenge into smaller parts allows your team to consider all the variables and contemplate a more focused solution.

Whether it’s by topic, task, region or challenge, there are many ways that you can split up your subject matter to zero in on a previously unnoticed roadblock. Apply this theory to your next session and you’ll get very different outcomes and a range of benefits, from less time spent deliberating to delivering more creative solutions.

Be mindful and curious

When you approach a room with compassion and an enquiring mind, people sense it. Stress, on the other hand, can be counter-productive.

Being curious and caring will let you (and others) start to see the unique perspectives that each team member brings and you’ll start to uncover the real issues, not just the superficial ones.

Express disagreements differently

Mindfulness doesn’t mean that you’re a pushover. Learn to be direct and assertive, where appropriate, without resorting to attacks, sarcasm or any disrespect. When faced with someone behaving negatively, the tendency is to fall into that trap and respond with a similar tone. Be mindful of your original intentions and have compassion for the other party.

Most people really want to be heard and are willing to align with the team once they are heard.

Being open, focused and respectful in your collaboration efforts and you will see significant business gains.