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Why Is Workplace Collaboration So Hard?

Thoughts on effective teamwork

Everyone preaches about workplace collaboration and how key it is to high-performing teams…and that’s certainly true. Poor collaboration can cost your company time and money and prevent you from delivering the kind of high-quality work that sets you apart from your competitors. The reality is, effortless collaboration is not easy to achieve. In fact, “collaboration” is probably one of the most overused and least understood terms in leadership talk.

Many people prefer to work by themselves instead of delegating, sharing important information, or including co-workers on key projects. What stops us from being truly collaborative when working with others, either one-on-one or with an entire team? 

The Most Common Blocks To Great Collaboration In The Workplace

Perfectionism

The “if you want it done right, do it yourself” syndrome immediately shuts the door to any possible collaboration. Lots of leaders are guilty of that, and it is an attitude that does nothing to help them develop themselves and those around them.

Desire to be visible

Individuals might also want to be able to take credit for the work instead of “disappearing” behind a team effort. A company culture that runs heavily on competitiveness is not fertile ground for effective workplace collaboration.  

Time

Many find that working with others slows them down.  It certainly takes more time and effort to explain the situation, provide direction and feedback, and set expectations with others than if you were to do the work yourself.  In the long run, though, a well-oiled team will save you time and produce better work.

Trust

Lack of trust in others and the inability to give – and receive – honest feedback stops people from making an effort to engage in real sharing when they work. Spending time together in honest, open, and real conversations is how teams build this type of alignment and trust.

Teams not in alignment

To build real workplace collaboration, everyone must know and understand the team goals and desired outcomes. When this happens, we say that the team is in alignment. Individual goals are in support of the team’s goals. Working in alignment gives everyone a clear path to the desired outcomes and naturally leads to collaboration.

The composition of the team’s talents

This might seem counter-intuitive, but the best teams are those that include different ways of approaching the work. Unfortunately, my experience coaching teams has shown me that many teams are made of individuals who are clones of each other in terms of how they solve problems. Contrary to what one might think, a group of people who work in the same fashion does not make for easier workplace collaboration.

For example, there is one consulting group I coach where every team member tends to focus on the details. Collectively, they get stuck in “analysis paralysis,” arguing about the terms of their projects. As a result, they are usually late completing work due to their self-generated inertia.  Having some people who are less detail-oriented on the team helps them to stop fact-finding and move projects along more quickly.

Shifting Your Workplace Collaboration Dynamics 

Can people break out of these unproductive patterns, both individually and as a team?  Of course.  Is it easy?  No. Like any behavioral change, it takes time and effort to move beyond your comfort zone of resisting working with other people, building understanding, honest communication, and trust and putting together a team where people contribute different approaches to the work. The payoff is big, though. You can improve the outcome and quality of your projects, create a more productive company culture, and positively impact your bottom line.

It all starts with the leaders showing the way and committing to the change. Then the right team development coach can support you every step of the way, working both with the team as a whole and with each individual to create full alignment.

Are you ready for it?

Let’s talk about the workplace collaboration roadblocks your team needs to solve.

 

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