People thrive in a work environment that frees them to communicate and collaborate. In the absence of shared values and goals, the team suffers a lack of focus and strategic failure. In the post-COVID talent management landscape, many leaders are finding it increasingly difficult to achieve a collaborative mindset. The challenge is getting team members to know each other better, having them thrive on each other for success, and maintaining transparency.

To understand what leaders can do to ensure team collaboration, I invited Lloyd Fickett for a leadership-focused podcast. Lloyd is the brain behind The Collaborative Way®. For the past 30 years, he has helped many companies navigate rapid growth, mergers, acquisitions, competitive challenges, and other market pressures by training them on the Collaborative Way principles. In an interesting conversation, Lloyd and I discussed five pillars of collaboration that can help leaders achieve mutual understanding and a common language within their teams.

Listening Generously

A major source of lost productivity stems from not listening to each other. Result? When conflict arises, we get locked into our point of view and set our arguments against each other. In such a setting, mistakes and misunderstandings thrive, while energy, resources, and time are wasted.

However, if we break from our habits of just listening and engage in Listening Generously, the same conflict of ideas can play an essential role in success. The organization-wide practice of Listening Generously establishes an environment of mutual support throughout your MSP.

To-dos for leaders:

  • Give your full attention to the person you are speaking to. Set aside your prejudices, preconceived conclusions, and judgments before engaging in a conversation.
  • Use phrases like “Right…” and “I understand…” throughout the conversation to let the other person know that you are paying attention, reminding yourself to stay tuned in at the same time.

Speaking Straight

Once you practice Listening Generously, you build an environment conducive to Speaking Straight. Establishing the culture of Speaking Straight is critical to more productive meetings and higher quality of collaborative thinking that always result in better decisions. With this practice, your MSP sees the faster implementation of initiatives by dealing with the real issues upfront. In turn, your team members feel respected and valued.

To-dos for leaders:

  • Use the first few minutes of the meeting to check in on everyone. Ask how the team is doing to create the intimacy of a team meeting.
  • Bring up issues that need addressing even at the risk of conflict and discomfort. Encourage everyone to speak up when they have something relevant to contribute.
  • Allow an ‘Open Door Policy’ within your team to maintain fluid lines of communication between you and your team.
  • Encourage all team members to give feedback that can contribute to improving processes and workflow.
  • Nurture a team culture where anyone can ask questions. When there are no ‘silly questions to ask’ or ‘not good enough’ ideas to share, collaborators are free to stretch their imaginations.

Being For Each Other 

Even though a company’s success depends upon our mutual support and teamwork, all team members too often focus on their personal success. With this mindset, their competitive drives push against each other. Result? They question each other’s intentions or jump to blame, slowing down the process of dealing with the real issue. Committing to the practice of Being For Each Other makes a significant difference in overcoming such a lack of mutual support in the workplace.

Lloyd calls Being For Each Other the most important The Collaborative Way® practice as it enables team members to stretch their ability and energy to support each other’s success.

To-dos for leaders:

  • Actively and quickly deal with performance issues arising out of gossip.
  • Quickly clear issues and misunderstandings that affect working relationships within your team.
  • Tell your team members that they need to compete against your competitors, not against each other. Have daily huddles to discuss the team’s goals and objectives for the day. This will simply avoid duplication of effort and unnecessary competition between team members.
  • Have your team engage in simple team-building activities and problem-solving games to informally teach them to communicate efficiently and most importantly to trust one another’s judgment.

Honoring Commitment 

Mishandled commitments contribute to a loss of morale and an increase in cynicism. Your team always scores low on customer satisfaction when your team members mishandle their commitments to each other. An environment of blame and finger-pointing distracts them from their customers, which could be the result of a miscommunication or misunderstanding about commitments. The practice of Honoring Commitments eliminates these ruts and helps you promote a team culture of accountability.

Honoring Commitments is a powerful tool for ensuring greater cooperation among team members and among business units, which always results in increased customer satisfaction due to the effective handling of commitments.

To-dos for leaders:

  • Ensure that only clearly defined goals are set for each team member.
  • Immediately communicate when a goal is at risk of not being met. Quickly and effectively address when goals are not met.
  • Encourage team members to effectively support each other in fulfilling each other’s commitments.

Sharing Acknowledgements and Appreciation 

Team members feel unappreciated and the least passionate about their role when there’s little or no acknowledgment of their efforts. The lack of a sense of appreciation can contribute to unproductive work and create an environment that thrives on complaining and gossip. Incomplete and unspecific appreciations are ineffective in writing off mistrust too. The practice of Sharing Acknowledgment and Appreciation can not only address these issues but also induce a great sense of belonging among team members.

To-dos for leaders:

  • Take advantage of every opportunity to acknowledge and appreciate your team members.
  • Give acknowledgment that is specific and meaningful. Be precise in explaining exactly what a team member did that was so exceptional.
  • Think of interesting channels to share the appreciation. Aside from the obvious staff meeting, you can always give your shout-out in an email or the employee newsletter, or on your MSP’s social channels.

Final Thought: As all MSPs move back to the office, your team can still be at risk of suffering from poor communication, lack of trust, and low engagement – all of which can erode the chances of teamwork and collaboration. With certain The Collaborative Way® practices and a mindset to quickly adapt, you will not only maintain but improve team collaboration to achieve greater business success.