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How do we foster team collaboration?

William Bauer
November 1, 2022

Yes, it is possible to stay organized while collaborating

Business collaborations are the foundation of your company's success. The goal is to get teams to work together to achieve common initiatives. A team is not just a collection of individuals (Why is it so difficult to achieve efficiency in a team?), it must be a real working group. Each team member must work with all the others to achieve a common goal by sharing common values and a vision of the work to be accomplished. In return, teamwork must be a source of fulfillment for its members. How do we reach this holy grail? Here we give you the keys to working well in a team setting whether you are a manager or an employee.

If it is always possible to work alone, you can be quickly held back by your own limits. Time is not extensible and it is naturally impossible to know everything and how to do everything . Also, the work that can be accomplished by a single person, even if it can be substantial, remains limited.

Synchronous VS Asynchronous Collaboration: Definitions

What is synchronous communication?

Synchronous communication is real-time communication between two or more partners. The exchanges are direct and instantaneous. Face-to-face conversations, meetings, calls, video conferences, or instant messaging are examples of synchronous communication.

What are the advantages of synchronous communication?
  • Speed: When you communicate synchronously, you get instant responses.
  • Richness in exchange: Synchronous communication offers richness in exchange. When you talk face to face with someone, you don't just receive verbal information. You also receive vocal information (voice intonation and sound) and visual information (facial expression and body language).
  • Synchronous communication is also more human. On one hand, because it has more depth, and on the other hand, because it is easier to read and transmit your emotions when you are talking in front of someone.
What are the disadvantages of synchronous communication?
  • The big downside of synchronous communication is that it encourages interruptions. When you are in a work environment that favors this kind of communication, you usually have more meetings and your colleagues interrupt you more often. This can make it difficult to concentrate at times.
  • Loss of freedom: When you receive a text message, you have the freedom to read it and respond later. With synchronous communication this is impossible. If someone comes to talk to you, you can't ignore them and come back to them later. You have to stop what you're doing to respond.

What is asynchronous communication?

Asynchronous communication is communication that takes place offline. There are no spatial or temporal constraints. You decide when to exchange and where to exchange. Emails, SMS, Whatsapp, Messenger, Snapchat, Skype, Slack, forums, or even more traditionally postal letters are examples of asynchronous communication.

What are the advantages of asynchronous communication?
  • Greater freedom
  • Better control of your time
  • Better control of the information issued
  • Respect for the time of others
What are the disadvantages of asynchronous communication?
  • Less rich communication. When you write or receive a message, you lose the vocal and visual information that makes a face-to-face conversation rich.
  • Slowness. Communicating offline can mean waiting several hours or even months before receiving a response.

How do you choose between synchronous and asynchronous communication?

When do you use synchronous communication?
  • When you have something sensitive to say. You'll be able to give more explanations in real-time and show empathy.
  • When you can anticipate questions. The more complex what you want to communicate is, the more questions you will be asked. To avoid endless exchanges of questions and answers by SMS or e-mail, take preference in real-time communications and you will save much more time.
  • When the matter at hand is urgent. If you have a hot topic to discuss and can't afford to wait, communicate synchronously and you'll get an immediate response.
  • When you brainstorm. To exchange ideas quickly and with several people, synchronous exchanges are better suited.
  • When you want to build a relationship. Nothing beats a face-to-face exchange to build a bond.
When do you use asynchronous communications?
  • When you want to focus. If you don't want to be interrupted (when using the Pomodoro technique, for example), opt for asynchronous communication, you'll have better control over distractions.
  • When the returns do not need to be immediate.
  • When you want to create a process. Let's say you offer services to your customers and they call you every time with the same questions. Instead of answering them synchronously, create documentation that answers their questions and send it to them automatically by e-mail.

Collaborations: The Challenges You Will Face

Getting people to collaborate is not easy. Whether they work on the same team or in different departments (sales, marketing, IT, product, etc.), you will face various challenges. These include:

  • poor communication between members of different departments
  • the inconsistency of the project's objectives
  • incompatible and competing resources
  • missed deadlines due to a different relationship to priorities
  • dispersed information if each department uses different tools (decentralized communication)
  • A certain weariness: each team may have a favorite tool; it is easy to feel bombarded with notifications from various applications. They force us to go back and forth and make it extremely difficult to concentrate.
  • reluctance to adopt new tools or methods

As a manager, how do you promote collaboration?

Faced with these challenges, you as a manager must find solutions to encourage teamwork. Here are some concrete suggestions:

Encourage mutual knowledge and listening
  • To cooperate, you have to know each other. And knowing each other means seeing each other. A small example: start your camera at the beginning of a video meeting.
  • Listen to the constraints of the different professions to better respond to them.
  • Be available and agile in order to promote speed in inter-business cooperation.
  • Lead by example and be as open as possible to other parts of the company.
  • Give before you receive. Cooperation requires generosity: giving time, giving advice, giving encouragement, etc.
Structure your team
  • Combine complementary skills. Working as a team allows you to enhance and develop each other's qualities while compensating for weaknesses.
  • Appoint an inspirational leader. It is very important for a team to have a leader, not just a "boss" who imposes a hierarchical relationship between the team members and him/her.
  • Open up to others by including other people in some meetings to brainstorm.
Share information, values, and objectives: in short, communicate!
  • Maintain regular communication so that everyone knows what everyone else is working on. Weekly internal meetings can be used to review everyone's progress. Daily meetings, like the Scrum daily meeting, for example, allow you to follow the progress of each person and to identify as soon as possible the problems encountered in order to put in place adequate solutions. Transparent communication is a rule of operation for a team. It is also a guarantee of trust.
  • During these discussions, facilitate the participants' ability to speak about their daily missions.
  • Encourage feedback by highlighting employee testimonials.
  • Develop resilience: cooperation is also developed through painful experiences.
  • Express your pride in your team's results.
  • Choose the right communication tools and encourage your teams to use them. In addition to the essential physical meetings, a multitude of tools, especially digital ones, can be used to facilitate the sharing of information and the collaboration of teams on a daily basis.
  • Define clear objectives: each member of a team must know his or her role and what he or she can contribute. The objectives to be achieved must therefore be clearly defined, precisely defined and of course achievable. They must also add value to the project, and team members must be able to see that their work is essential and that the time they spend on it is useful. Having clearly stated and understood common goals will increase everyone's motivation and help build a strong team spirit. However, the final goal of the project towards which teamwork should be directed can sometimes seem distant and less concrete. In this case, it is important to define milestones to be reached, with clear objectives each time, so that the team's motivation remains intact until the end of the project (How to be better organized at work?)
  • Share the rules of the game (permissions and limits): giving your team members benchmarks is essential to working well together.
What not to do, as a manager:
  • Play the game of competition between your teams and others.
  • Not sharing information. As a manager, you often have access to strategic information from your employer or other managers. Without revealing information that you consider too confidential, be sure to share the projects, objectives, or even the problems of other parts of the company. Communicate with other managers about your own team as well.
  • Disrespecting the limits of each team. Establishing dialogue and exchange between teams depends first and foremost on mutual respect for each other's skills, missions, and operations. Set the limits. You and your team should not be dictated to, nor should you judge the conduct of others.
  • Judging. Everyone works and thinks differently. We should not focus only on how we would have done this or that thing and take into consideration all ideas, even the craziest ones.
  • Clobber others with your jargon. Most professions have their own language, especially in tech. Be sure to adapt your vocabulary when interacting with teams who aren't familiar with your field of expertise.

How do you promote collaboration as an employee?

Employees also have a key role to play in building effective collaboration. Here's how you, as an employee, can take action to promote teamwork.

  • If you are particularly sensitive to the challenges of collaboration, discuss your approach with your manager. Their moral, financial and logistical support will be essential, especially if you need to invest in new tools or organize events.
  • To collaborate with others, you need to be clear about your needs, your strengths, and your role in the task, project or company.
  • Be motivated. A big part of collaboration is having enthusiasm and determination. Keep the project goal and objectives in mind and use them as fuel to increase your performance.
  • Keep information organized and always share it with your colleagues.
  • Be accepting. Be open to contributions, comments, new ideas, suggestions and different approaches to the project.
  • Learn to deal with problems and failures. Prove your ability to forgive those who make mistakes, apologize for your own mistakes and be willing to discuss obstacles with an open mind.
  • Modernize your knowledge. While some skills are more behavioral, it's important to have a good understanding of technology, especially collaboration tools.
  • Be humble and share success: keep in mind that achievements are the result of shared efforts, so always make sure to show appreciation to members when the team wins.

To Conclude on Teamwork

How do you develop team spirit? How do you work well in a team? Finally, the answer is quite simple: everyone must show trust and respect for others. There are of course the basic rules of good manners and politeness. Tasks must be distributed fairly and everyone must respect the work of others. It is also necessary to know how to assume one's mistakes and problems in general.

Only with transparent communication can trust be established. Finally, everyone must be willing to set an example in terms of both behavior and work.

In short, there is strength in numbers. The weaknesses of some are compensated for by the strengths of others, and everyone progresses and works towards the achievement of individual and common objectives. It is also in the interest of the company to develop team spirit on the management side by promoting transparent communication and interaction between the different workgroups. The definition of teamwork has the advantage that it lends itself well to the implementation of a continuous improvement process. A team is not a fixed thing. It takes time to set it up, and then it evolves over time and improves.

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