The Art of Collaboration

When your organization is operating in a team structure, you’re expected to work with colleagues, not dictate orders to them. Yet you must still be able to lead the team to accomplish the company’s objectives.

The following skills are key to being a successful team leader, inspiring the group to work together toward the common goal.

Two-way communication

Team members should be encouraged to share their skills, experience and creativity to develop new or improved processes and solutions. Be aware that people have different preferred communication channels. For example, up to 40% of Americans feel more comfortable with written rather than verbal communication — email or an intranet collaboration tool instead of face-to-face meetings.

A team of diverse individuals is proven to be more effective in innovative problem solving; however, it may come with the challenge of different communication styles. If someone is not being immediately understood, make sure they aren’t brushed aside. It may take an extra effort to help them articulate their idea, either in the meeting or in private.


There’s no point in asking the team for new ideas if leadership is set against considering them. Open-mindedness which acknowledges the validity of everyone’s perspective and area of expertise is a cornerstone of team productivity.

Ideas aren’t always born full-fledged and ready to fly. Many questions may have to be asked and answered before you even reach the planning stage. This is all to the good, as long as those questions are honestly seeking knowledge, not trying to exert control or impress others with the questioner’s own superiority.

Another aspect of flexibility is how you handle setbacks. Here you’ll need to lead by example, staying calm and focusing on solutions. Skip the “woe is us” stage and get the team collaborating on analysis of what went wrong and how to fix it.

Respectful Feedback

In a team setting, debate is an integral part of the creative process. Some team members — including their coach — may need guidance on how to discuss differences of opinion constructively, without getting into personal or emotional arguments. The coach’s role is to ensure that the debate stays on task: polite and productive.

Feedback on how a team member — or coach — can improve their performance must be handled in the same way. Foster a culture of continuous learning within the team, about oneself, each other and the job skills needed to accomplish the mission.


Team members who are committed to the long-term success of the company are happier, fueling increased productivity and reduced turnover. This investment can maintained and strengthened in several ways.

Establish channels for encouragement and positive reinforcement. The team coach should praise a task well done at least as often is pointing out a mistake. This gives individuals the confidence and inspiration to exceed their own expectations. Team members can also be provided with a venue, such as an intranet platform, to give each other shout-outs for help received or an exceptional performance.

Team culture must include the willingness to support each other as needed. This allows each team member to work without fear or doubt, increasing their initiative and resilience. On the other hand, when people are afraid to ask for information or assistance, the entire team’s efforts are hampered.

Start every meeting with a reminder of the team’s, company’s or current project’s ultimate mission. Many employees are highly motivated by knowing that they are working for a greater purpose than their daily assignments.

These principles of collaboration will help the team leader get the best out of the team’s abilities and viewpoints, empowering them to achieve everything the organization hoped for — and more.