3 WAYS LEADERS CAN INCREASE TEAM COLLABORATION 2 July 2013 Guest post by Dale Carnegie Training

3 WAYS LEADERS CAN INCREASE TEAM COLLABORATION 2 July 2013 Guest post by Dale Carnegie Training (See Sarah’s guest post on the Dale Carnegie site here)
In a guest post a few weeks ago on the Dale Carnegie Training blog, innovation process expert and author Sarah Miller Caldicott offered 3 Ways to Gauge Great Team Collaboration. Here is our reciprocal guest post from the Dale Carnegie Training team offering another in-depth view of collaboration as exemplified by the teams of Thomas Edison — world renowned innovator and Sarah’s great-great-uncle. Collaboration is a crucial element that can drive team success beyond the mere sum of the capabilities of each member. Moreover, Edison’s success reminds us that there is a significant distinction between true collaboration and the simple notion of “teamwork. ” There are key indicators today’s leaders can look to for determining whether true collaboration exists in a team or not.
A leader must not only be able to identify a lack of collaboration, but inspire and foster opportunities that help collaboration increase. It takes strong leadership and management skills to transform a group of employees from simply ‘working together’ to collaborating as a coherent unit.  Today, leaders must know what to do if they see that a team’s collaboration indicators are lagging.  Here are 3 strategies offered by Dale Carnegie Training which align with Edison’s own thinking as reflected in Sarah’s new book Midnight Lunch.  These 3 strategies can help leaders encourage and promote increased collaboration among team members.
First, to ensure that team members are truly collaborating, create opportunities for learning at work. Employees that come together to problem-solve have the chance to learn-by-doing, and can engage in true collaboration. When drawing upon the perspectives of others, employees often perform their best work and arrive at solutions they could not have if they had worked individually. Leaders can facilitate this type of learning by constantly challenging teams to push themselves beyond what is perceived to be possible.
Leaders can also create opportunities for learning and discovery by providing training in new areas to help teams feel more equipped to handle difficult tasks and assignments. When individuals have opportunities to learn in team settings they feel more challenged, more engaged, and become more self-motivated. As Caldicott points out in her research on Edison’s success, his teams were frequently encouraged to run experiments together and thereby develop new context around the problems they faced. Their discovery learning endeavors led to development of a ‘growth mindset’ which allowed them to rapidly adapt to new market conditions.  By expanding the discovery learning opportunities in a team setting, leaders deepen the growth potential for their entire organization.
A second tool leaders can employ to drive increased collaboration is to value team diversity. In a team context, diversity embraces bringing together a mix of expertise, work styles, and ways of thinking. When a team brings different perspectives to the table, there are more opportunities for the exchange of ideas, more skills at the team’s disposal, and more viewpoints to challenge until the best possible solution is determined. To expand the collaboration capacities of their employees, leaders must find ways to leverage each team member’s strengths, encouraging frequent opportunities for casual discussion. Intentionally develop opportunities for team exchange when there is no prescribed agenda for such dialogue. Edison found that keeping his teams small – typically no more than 8 people – expanded the ‘multiplier effect’ that is yielded by encouraging casual dialogue within diverse groups.  He realized that even greater productivity resulted when teams came together in a spirit of debate, without fear of judgment or criticism. Today’s leaders must recognize that while every idea contributed in team dialogue will not be the ‘winning’ one, the diversity and range of thinking will propel a higher quality result, and allow the team to drive its collaboration efforts to a higher level.
And third, to expand the presence of true collaboration on a team, leaders and members alike must share a common purpose.  A sense of inspiration must surround the activities of the team itself. This helps guide a healthy ‘balance of power’ between team members, and vaults their sense of cooperation beyond their need for ego or dominance. When one person believes their words have more or less value than those of another, the process of collaboration is hindered, and creates unnecessary limitations for the team.  A sense of shared purpose emerges through dialogue, and the ability to openly express ideas that unite the group in some way. This sense of unity can be felt with regard to either the ultimate output of the team, the emergence of a new process or way of conducting business, or the positive impact the team’s work will have on outside parties such as clients, stakeholders, or even an entire community.  To help drive this sense of shared purpose, leaders should focus on ways of rewarding the team as a whole, offering incentives which ‘challenge the team to challenge themselves.’ Respect and trust must be present as core values, and leaders must emphasize these values as they observe and encourage the team.
Today’s leaders – in any organization or business – should keep these 3 strategies in mind as they seek to expand collaboration on their teams. By offering learning opportunities that nurture a growth mindset, valuing team diversity, and encouraging shared purpose, leaders will increase the capacity for collaboration within their organization, and drive team results to their fullest potential.
This post was contributed by Dale Carnegie Training, the training company founded on the principles of the famous speaker and author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Today, the company offers sales training and helps businesses and individuals achieve their goals. Visit Dale Carnegie Training online to learn more about leadership programs.


(1st in a series of guest posts developed for Dale Carnegie Training)


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