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86% of employees believe workplace failures are due to a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication.
If you’ve ever read a job description, you know that every company seems to be looking for a “team player.” Maybe organizations’ obsession with that term highlights something we all inherently know to be true: we can accomplish more together than on our own.
In fact, Stanford researchers Priyanka Carr and Gregory Walton found that simply feeling like we’re working as part of a team makes us more motivated to persevere in difficult tasks. Across five experiments, participants who thought they were solving a puzzle with others worked on it 48% longer than those who thought they were on their own.
Without teamwork and collaboration, we falter. In 2011, Fierce, Inc. surveyed more than 1,400 executives and employees, and 86% said that workplace failures can be attributed to a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication.
So what are three important skills we can use to enhance teamwork and collaboration in the workplace? Below, we’ll go over those in detail and learn how to hone them in your own work life.
The American Psychological Association defines trust as “the degree to which each party feels that they can depend on the other party to do what they say they will do.”
Teamwork is based on relationships, and at the foundation of every relationship is trust. If you lack trust in your teammates—in other words, if you do not believe they will do what they say they will do—you’ll constantly double-check their work or attempt to accomplish tasks on your own.
Trust also empowers us to do our best work. According to research by Paul Zak, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies, employees whose companies were in the top quartile of trust levels reported having 106% more energy than respondents whose firms were in the bottom quartile.
Trust develops over time after getting to know people and seeing evidence that you can rely on them. Understandably, it’s difficult, and perhaps unwise, to trust someone you don’t know. But there are ways to expedite that process.
Tolerance is one of the 48 motivations we identified in our 20 years of motivation research. We define it as the “level of acceptance and appreciation for the unique styles, values and rules of each person including your own.”
If your team is diverse (which we hope it is!), you’ll be working with people from all sorts of cultures and backgrounds. Their values, perspectives and ways of communicating may differ from yours—and you’ll need to be able to appreciate the differences. Without tolerance, an employee will try to impose their values and ideas onto others, making it difficult to bond and collaborate.
Emotional intelligence begins with self-awareness, which involves knowing your emotions, motivations and blind spots—and how those will affect everyone on your team.
The first step to being able to communicate well is knowing what you’re trying to say. Self-awareness enables you to recognize your feelings and concerns so that you can better express them. In a team environment, everyone is affected by each other. To get the outcome you want, you’ll need to know the part you play in your team dynamics.
While trust, tolerance and self-awareness are top skills, there are even more skills that can enhance teamwork and collaboration. Let’s go over three more below.
Empathy means feeling what another person is feeling and/or imagining yourself in their shoes. So it has two components: emotional and cognitive.
Empathy is the glue that will hold your team together. It’s what will help defuse conflict and encourage bonding. And ultimately, it’ll make people want to stick around. According to Businessolver’s 2019 State of Workplace Empathy Study, 93% of employees say they’re more likely to stay with an empathetic employer.
Remember how I said there are two aspects to empathy: emotional and cognitive? While you may not be able to make yourself feel what someone else is feeling, you do have the cognitive ability to imagine yourself in their shoes. This is called “perspective-taking,” and you can see it as a thought experiment in what it would be like to look at something from someone else’s viewpoint.
Transparency is more than honesty—it’s telling the truth even when no one asks for it, with the goal being to avoid problems down the line by being upfront now. Transparency in your company might look like publishing quarterly reports for the public to review, announcing an upcoming decision to your team, or having an open salary policy where everyone in your company knows how much money their colleagues are making.
Transparency is huge in building trust because it shows your team that you are not hiding anything from them. Your coworkers have no reason to question your motivations when you always keep your decisions and reasoning available for them to examine.
Transparency in a company usually begins with decision-making. Open up your processes so your team can see how you came to a decision. You can also share results with your team—the good and the ugly—to be more transparent. This may sound scary and counterintuitive at first, but the benefit to transparency is that your brilliant team will likely have solutions you never would’ve thought of on your own.
When we talk about collaboration and communication, we often think about how we can better express ourselves and our ideas. But perhaps the most vital skill to have when disagreements and conflicts arise is the ability to close our mouths and listen to others.
Companies already know how important this is. In the 2017 Corporate Recruiters Survey Report, listening skills were the second-most sought after in job candidates. Just as self-awareness allows you to express yourself more accurately, active listening allows others to express themselves to you and be heard.
No matter how well your team gels, there are bound to be conflicts at some point. Knowing how to de-escalate and resolve them will be key to keeping your team happy, healthy and productive.
Conflict resolution matters because you won’t find a workplace that is completely conflict-free (and if you do, that’s probably because they’re hiding from their problems rather than confronting them). According to the 2008 CPP Global Human Capital Report, 85% of employees say they must deal with conflict to some extent—and 29% say they deal with it “always” or “frequently.”
Whether you already consider yourself an A-plus team player or not—there’s always room for improvement. And as you saw in this article, there are action steps you can take right now to start collaborating better with your team.
So that you don’t get overwhelmed, pick one skill at a time to hone. So which of these 3 important skills for teamwork and collaboration will you work on this week?