“Collaboration” is a popular buzzword in the AV/IT world. In the age of click-bait advertising, buzzwords often ring hollow. But at the core of “collaboration”, there is a germ of real meaning endangered by mindless overuse.
Collaboration is defined as, “The action of working with someone to produce or create something.” We see collaboration as synergy in action—the achievement of greater excellence, together.
Why Culture Matters
To cultivate collaboration, organizations need an internal paradigm shift. Let’s face it: no one likes change. Getting organizations to shift their thinking is like trying to get an elephant to tango.
So why try?
Because collaboration keeps companies competitive. Teams working together ultimately drive success. Companies that fail to bring people and ideas together in new and better ways will stagnate while their competition thrives.
Below are ten steps to creating a culture of collaboration. You and your team will be glad you did.
1. Start at the top.
Leadership sets the tone of company culture. Executives and managers should show their desire to drive collaboration. When managers are all in, teams follow willingly.
Demonstrate the importance of collaboration with tangible follow-through. Planning is only the first step. Real change means putting rubber to the road.
“Collaboration talk” is cheap, but budgets—of both time and resources—are not. Invest in priorities, technologies, and processes that drive collaboration from the top.
2. Prioritize people.
People are not machines. They develop, personally and professionally, through more than just performing functions. People are intrinsically important, not just a means of profit.
By prioritizing people, leaders till the soil for growth. Employees go through hard times—loss, illness, or other struggles—and depend on trusted support. Collaboration relies on a safety net of understanding and care that makes teams comfortable and effective while working together.
Leaders should respect employee commitments outside of work. Though counterintuitive, giving space and flexibility for personal commitments is productive—as well as kind. Try to schedule meetings around external commitments. This demonstrates care, makes meetings more effective, and lowers the chances of employees abusing sick days.
3. Encourage ownership and transparency.
Give opportunities for employees to claim their success and areas to improve. When teams can speak candidly, they find obstacles and opportunities that might otherwise be missed.
Managers should be transparent about their own progress and setbacks. Transparency drives trust, encouraging employees to give more input going forward.
4. Reward successes.
Always celebrate team wins. This may be as simple as a small treat or ceremony—like a lunch or party. Attributing success to those who achieve it increases buy-in and makes work more enjoyable. Even small acts of reward motivate better collaboration.
5. Look for solutions, not blame.
Nothing goes perfectly. Allow team members room to fail—and improve—without fear. Rather than making scapegoats, find solutions. Hone in on your team’s biggest challenges, and empower them to find solutions.
6. Level the playing field.
Companies need decision makers. But when leader input is valued above all, collaboration is stifled. Teams thrive with servant leadership. When leaders rely on their team as equal contributors, they strengthen collaboration. Instead of emphasizing rank or boundaries, seek diverse input for more innovative solutions.
7. Balance work with fun.
Say it with me, “It’s okay to have fun!” You can keep work lighthearted when appropriate, and you absolutely should. Why? Because boredom is distracting and draining. The right dose of humor helps teams recharge, refresh, and build camaraderie.
8. Use technology to make meetings easy.
There’s a lot of powerful collaboration technology out there today. Interactive touch displays, BYOD-ready wireless presentation systems, room automation, and user-friendly AV control systems are great solutions for most businesses. Outdated equipment slows teams down, but the right technology is a powerful tool that makes collaboration easy.
9. Stay agile and flexible.
Collaboration thrives in a flexible, agile environment. Many companies use video conferencing technology to make it easy for remote team members to meet face-to-face, allowing for collaboration at any distance. You can also use huddle spaces to accommodate more effective collaboration on the fly.
10. Prioritize community.
It’s important to foster strong community among your team. By getting to know your people and bringing them together, you can transform your culture. Any attempt to force collaboration without a solid foundation of genuine community is sure to fail.
Changing culture is a daily task.
Collaboration takes a diligent investment of time and resources. Examine your company’s status. Do employees feel their input is valued? Is your company a community? If not, you can begin to change that.
Take time each day to cultivate collaboration. Everyone, from executive management to entry-level employees, will benefit. Don’t let “collaboration” be an empty buzzword. Act it out, and reap the rewards.
Nathan Spell is resident blogger, social media manager, and certified coffee addict at Synergy CT, a Houston-based audio visual integrator committed to bringing people and ideas together. He writes about AV technology and communication trends at synergyct.com.