Many of us have a hard time collaborating with other people when we are not face-to-face with them in a meeting. This skill has become even more difficult to master when we have to work with those team members who are remotely located from us. But effective collaboration across your team is critical for your own personal success. It also can determine how fast your company grows, what your cash flow will be and how much working capital will be needed.
If you're having a hard time collaborating across in-office and remote teams, here are a few ways you can improve:
1. Listen more than you talk.
Listening first can be difficult in business since so many people are eager to contribute and convince others of their point of view, but it's always where you start with any relationship. You have a better chance of a meaningful collaboration with another person if you can understand their point of view and what they can contribute.
2. Take other's ideas seriously.
Don't just give lip service to someone's idea and say you will take it under consideration.
...Use video and screen sharing instead of just a phone call when having conversations with people in other locations. This can foster more focused communications and better long-term relationships.
Be appreciative of your employee's ideas and seriously consider what the outcome would look like if their solutions were implemented. This requires the difficult process of putting your point of view on hold and adopting theirs for a brief period.
3. Be curious and authentic.
Behavioral expert Dr. Diane Hamilton believes that curiosity is the key to unlocking all our human potential.
"If you are authentically interested in another person's point of view," Dr. Hamilton says, "they will feel this and are more likely to accept your ideas when it comes time to collaborate with them."
4. Be kind.
Ultimately, people don't want to collaborate with mean people (and they're not comfortable working with them either). It doesn't make them feel good about themselves, so they tend to avoid these people.
If you are consistently unpleasant to your employees or strategic partners, you may be left with no one to collaborate with you! If you notice that people are avoiding you or that you can't reach them, your communication style and attitude may be a cause. Consider asking employees for feedback on if the way you communicate helps or hinders them in the office.
5. Learn to be diplomatic, but practice candor.
For effective collaboration, people need to be able to communicate their ideas. At the same time, they should be diplomatic in that communication and think about how their message will be received.
This doesn't mean sugarcoating your point of view.
“Radical candor helps build a cohesive team and gets things done with less office drama," says Kim Scott, co-founder of leadership development consultancy Radical Candor. "It means caring personally about people and at the same time, challenging them directly." According to the company's website, radical candor "is caring personally while challenging directly. It's guidance that's kind and clear, specific and sincere."
Practicing radical candor can help you be constructively critical, while your thoughtful responses can show your team you take other's ideas seriously.
6. Respond to all emails and group chats in a timely manner.
“Ghosting" (not responding) has become popular even among coworkers. With so many ways to communicate, it is important to keep up to date on any tools your company uses.
Responding in a reasonable amount of time is a show of respect to your coworker and can help foster better collaboration. Chat should be responded to within a few hours and email within a day.
7. Use collaboration tools.
Take advantage of the collaboration tools that your company is already using. They are there to facilitate effective collaboration and can act as a guide for you to form good habits.
For example, use video and screen sharing instead of just a phone call when having conversations with people in other locations. This can foster more focused communications and better long-term relationships.
8. Do what you say you will do.
If you never complete the tasks you promised to do, people won't do their part because they think you won't. They may not take collaborating seriously because of it, too.
In the long run, people tend to feel more comfortable if you fulfill the commitments you made. They will know they can rely on you and may be more likely do their best work.
9. Go on a retreat.
When team members can communicate in a more casual setting, it can help the overall working relationship. Consider using your business credit cards to book a retreat so employees can socialize somewhere out of the office. Learning the personal interests of coworkers can encourage a tighter connection, which may lead to improved teamwork.
10. Pick your battles with your team.
As in any relationship, don't fight over everything. Picking your battles when leading your team can help you achieve your goals. If you're arguing with them over everything, that means you're either headed in the wrong direction or you don't have the right staff. When you have the right team, seeking compromise always fosters joint solutions.
Collaboration has become more challenging now that the workforce has become more mobile. Having so many quick and impersonal communication methods to exchange information has made it more difficult for us to connect and collaborate. Improving your collaboration skills can help produce better team outcomes and more company growth through increased cash flow, thanks to executing on your teams' best ideas.
Read more articles on motivating employees.
Photo: Getty Images