How do you foster collaboration in the workplace?

4 ways to cultivate collaboration in the workplace


We should all be doing more to foster collaboration in the workplace. I’ve always felt that the myth of the lone genius (names like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk come to mind) is harmful to business leaders who believe it. Sure, there are standout people everywhere, but they are always, always, part of a greater collaborative team.

One of the things we teach in our team leader training courses is how to foster a collaborative culture in your workplace. For now, however, you can just read about four of the best ways to do so.

1. Make the goal or cause inspiring

I find this is one of the most important factors in fostering collaboration. Like it or not, teams don’t thrive when the work is boring, unchallenging or aimless. While this kind of work is sometimes the reality of the business world, it doesn’t have to be aimless or uninspiring if you define why you’re doing the work you’re doing.

Think of the greatest sports movies – in the start of the third act, when everyone’s feeling down and out because the game seems lost, the sniff of hope that comes when the star player scores a point can be the thing that bands the team together. The fighting spirit comes out and everyone’s inspired to play their hearts out to chase the inspiring goal of coming back from behind. When the goal can make your team feel like that, their collaborative spirits will be ignited.

When the team feels inspired, greatness is sure to flourish.When the team feels inspired, greatness is sure to flourish.

2. Give relationships a chance to grow

Some of the best collaborations occur when people understand each other’s strengths, weaknesses and perspectives. Strong relationships between team members make collaboration a lot more fruitful because communication between them is so much clearer. Do you have a friend who you know so well it’s almost like you speak your own language with them? Those are the kinds of relationships that make amazing collaborative teams. This can be fostered with providing opportunities for team members to socialise outside of work hours.

Strong relationships between team members make collaboration a lot more fruitful.

Strong relationships also mean that each team member can play to their strengths with confidence, because the rest of the team knows that they know what they’re doing.

3. Be fair

If there’s one thing that can sour the grapes of the wine that is a good collaborative spirit, it’s unfairness between the members of the teams. Here I mean unfairness in all the forms – pay, credit, responsibility, project control, work distribution et cetera. Feelings of resentment can grow if some members of the team think things are unfair. So, for you as a strong leader, that means you have to do your best to get a handle on how people are feeling about this. If you’ve made a decision someone thinks is unfair, communicate why you thought it was necessary/fair.

A mistake leaders sometimes make is thinking that ‘equal’ is an appropriate synonym for ‘fair’. It’s not, or at least, not necessarily. Someone can be paid more, be given more credit, be trusted with more responsibility – but they have to deserve it.

Fair is not necessarily equal - but make sure your team feels the same way.Fair is not necessarily equal – but make sure your team feels the same way.

4. Embrace failure

I think failure is underrated. While it can be a sign something’s not going right, it can also be a sign something is going very right – you’re experimenting and learning from your mistakes. Your team needs to be comfortable to throw ideas out there, without fear of being judged or being held overly responsible if things don’t pan out.

This is not to say you should intentionally try to fail – that would be absurd. Rather, my point is that innovation never comes from only throwing a dart when you’re sure it’ll be a bullseye – it happens when people are encouraged to throw many darts, with the understanding that most will miss but the one that hits is worth the trouble.

If you’re looking to gain more skills around leading your team, enquire today about one of our people management courses in Melbourne.

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