In talking with leaders and managers in various industries I often hear something like: “Everyone is so busy just trying to get their own work done. They are so concerned about making the data attractive to shareholders or protecting their own position. Add the fact that so many of us work on virtual teams now, and I think working together rarely crosses anyone’s mind.”

Their comments also explain why, in my survey earlier this year, four out of five managers requested information to increase and improve communication and collaboration between themselves and their staff and among the staff as a team.

Good managers know the success of a cohesive team trumps the strength of the individual every time, including the power of the leader. But how can a manager who is already working so hard just to stay afloat find the time to build a more collaborative culture within their team?

Here are 7 simple ways to begin developing a more cohesive team that isn’t afraid to build relationships with those outside their world to seek new and better ways to accomplish the highest priorities of the organization:

Create a clear and compelling reason to work together. People find all kinds of reasons not to work together when they are unclear about or indifferent to a goal. What’s the cause that can unite your team and also more strongly connect you to other teams?

Highlight a previous win with collaboration. Share the compelling reason that brought the group(s) together and how the process took place. If members of the teams that collaborated are available, have them share how it felt to work together to solve a complex problem more effectively.

Promote meetings between department or unit heads. When employees see their leaders meeting face to face to brainstorm and solve problems, it encourages them to do the same.

Make innovation a priority. If the bar is set high enough, people have no choice but to seek ideas from those outside their normal circles.

Bring your team(s) together and ask some tough questions. Whether it’s the individuals on one team or multiple teams who depend on one another, have them answer questions like:
*What do we do that makes it difficult to do your job?
*If we made it easier to work together, what would that look like?
*What’s the criteria by which you evaluate the quality of the work we provide?

Make building relationships an essential part of the collaborative process. Too often collaboration is seen simply as a way to solve a complex problem. Research has found that the most productive and innovative teams were led by people who were both task AND relationship oriented. When employees learn they share a common interest or struggle with some of the same issues outside of work, the other people involved in the collaborative process become real people.

Finally, model collaborative behavior-and make it visible. As you reach out to different groups and individuals to improve your ability to do your job, share your experiences in conversation or as appropriate in meetings. Let others know you sincerely believe in the value of collaboration and working together as a team.

What step could you take to build a more cohesive team?

With constantly shifting priorities and layers of bureaucracy, it can seem impossible to find the time to lift your heads from your work and engage in teamwork. Creating new solutions to old problems is not as difficult when each person knows how to responsibly do their part toward the common goal and appreciates the contributions offered by others to accomplish that goal.

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