A Small Business Owner’s Guide to Effective Collaboration Strategies

An old adage tells us that “It takes teamwork to make the dream work.” In a nutshell, that’s exactly what developing and implementing effective collaboration strategies can do for your small business.

Tara Deakin et al. looking at a laptop: Four businesspeople stand in front of a desk and point at documents while looking at charts and notes.

© Getty Images
Four businesspeople stand in front of a desk and point at documents while looking at charts and notes.

While members of any cross-functional team can make progress playing nicely in the sandbox together, a little strategic effort can get even more out of people collaborating on a team or project. To maximize a company’s results, a small business owner must develop and execute a thoughtful collaboration strategy.

This guide walks you through strategies for collaboration and how to develop them. It also offers insights into how to leverage effective team collaboration strategies implemented by other organizations as best practices to get the most out of your team’s collaboration.

Overview: What is a collaboration strategy?

We can think of collaboration as a process of working together to accomplish a specific goal, such as completing a project, in a way that creates a win for everyone involved. Collaboration isn’t quite the same thing as teamwork, although they both involve a group of people who are willing to help and interact positively with each other.

Collaboration involves people working collectively rather than individually, which can be somewhat more challenging to accomplish. Working with this mindset and completing projects as one team instead of many individuals can be complex without the right strategies in place. Co-workers may not communicate or share as much as is necessary to optimize the collaborative environment.

However, you can enact strategies for collaboration that deliver multiple benefits for your team’s efforts.

4 advantages of improving team collaboration

To enhance team outcomes, your team must understand the value of building greater collaboration. Here are some of the key business benefits of improved collaboration.

1. Greater flexibility

Team members who collaborate well know what others on the team can do, how they think, and how they react. When a sudden or unexpected situation arises — like the pandemic — close collaboration enables more effective handling of these surprises through flexibility, which may mean pivoting or making a series of smaller changes.

Teams can use project management methodologies like scrum and agile as collaboration tools to become more flexible and respond quickly as a group, rather than as individuals.

2. Deeper employee engagement

Engaged employees bring your business a number of benefits. They tend to stay at your company longer, thus maximizing the return on your investment in their training. As the employer, you will get the most out of their skills and knowledge.

Enabling a better work environment that lets each member be more involved in projects with other team members can give them a greater sense of ownership, which can result in greater productivity and more efficient work processes. The positive feeling that they are making a difference creates deeper engagement.

3. More productive meetings

Some of the most successful teams I’ve seen, ones that work like a well-oiled machine, are already brainstorming, communicating, and completing tasks through collaboration. They do it whether they’re in a physical workspace or using video conferencing calls.

What’s great about these teams is that you can increase productivity related to meetings without holding so many. When you do need to schedule team meetings, they will be more productive because many time-consuming agenda items have already been resolved.

4. Faster time to market

An organizational culture built on collaboration helps you get products or services to market at a much faster rate. A collective approach to tasks, communication tools, and problem-solving produces accelerated workflows that get the job done.

Using online tools like Slack or project management software, your cross-functional team can speed up their task completion time by working together virtually and sharing real-time updates.

5 effective collaboration strategies for improving teamwork

You can employ multiple strategies to improve team collaboration and drive a collaborative culture for your organization. Here are five effective collaboration strategies to consider.

1. Highlight individual skills and strengths

For truly effective collaboration, everyone has to bring something unique to the team. When the team members share their individual skills, everyone better understands the role they play in the overall success of the project. They also recognize that their employer values those individual traits.

2. Promote the concept of community

When you emphasize collaboration as part of a bigger picture, you’re promoting a sense of community. As a result, team members can see that working together helps them build something much larger than themselves.

In discussing community-building efforts with the team you manage, position the projects and work environment in a way that makes it easy for individuals to share their opinions and ideas. That way, they see that doing so is part of what makes collaboration work so well.

3. Stimulate creativity

For a collaborative team to succeed, it must provide innovative ways to solve existing problems. That takes creativity and brainstorming, two things that flourish in a collaborative environment. Your strategies should give your team space to unleash their creative thinking. Give them an area to meet in-person or through an online breakout or huddle room.

4. Be the model

Emphasizing team collaboration won’t work unless you also exhibit the same behavior. Let others see you collaborate with the leadership team or other stakeholders. It might even be ideal to sit down with your team members as a group and in one-to-one meetings to see how you can collaborate.

Additionally, providing them the resources, training, and technology to do their job shows that you value collaboration and consider it a must for the company.

5. Reward collaboration

Using positive reinforcement such as rewards for collaborative successes is a good way to cement this process and mindset in the organization. It illustrates that you see collaboration as one of your company’s values. You can also use employee appraisal metrics that include team collaboration along with individual successes to enhance employee motivation.

4 b
est practices when encouraging your team to collaborate

You can achieve better collaboration for your team by using these best practices to increase motivation and help them work more effectively together.

1. Give them a reason

Clearly explain the benefits of collaboration and how it will positively impact both the company and each team member. Provide a clear explanation of how this process links to the company’s goals and objectives.

2. Provide specific expectations

Be as detailed as possible about what you expect them to do and achieve on each project where you want them to collaborate. You should effectively communicate both individual and team responsibilities so that everyone involved is on the same page.

3. Make it easy to collaborate

By providing the tools, software, and technology that enable collaboration, you are making it as easy as possible for team members to work more closely together toward a common goal.

4. Hold daily huddles

When teams participate in daily huddles, whether in-person or virtually, it enables all team members to update each other on their efforts so that nothing is duplicated or unclear. This information then empowers individuals on the team to determine whether they need to redirect efforts or continue on the current trajectory in order to stay on time and under budget.

Add a spirit of collaboration to your teamwork strategy

To permeate your organization’s culture with collaboration, you need to leverage varied communications strategies, tools, software, and leadership approaches, all of which will help your employees understand the benefits of working more closely together.

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