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Communication, Collaboration, and Shared Goals

Find out how effective communication and collaboration can help your team reach your goals faster and spread change across your organization.

In 1978, two men launched a new brand of ice cream at a gas station in Burlington, Vermont, USA. Their names? Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield.

In such a competitive market, Ben and Jerry’s ice cream needed to stand out. It was their close collaboration and communication that helped them do this.

If they hadn’t been such a good team, they might never have been open to each other’s ideas—and that’s exactly what makes their product a success. Ben was adamant that their frozen desserts should have a unique, chunky texture, while Jerry was laser-focused on the rich and complex flavors. The result? Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is a household name, bringing in over $450 million in annual revenue, and growing every day.

Strong collaborative communication is key to the success of any team. If team members are separately working on their own projects without regular touchpoints with each other, they’re more likely to feel isolated and unmotivated, allowing tasks to slip through the cracks.

All teams communicate, and most teams collaborate. But true collaborative communication is a unique and powerful blend of the two, just like a great Ben & Jerry’s flavor. Here’s how you can weave it into the way your teams operate. What is collaborative communication?
Collaborative communication is a way of working as a team that involves open, honest, and respectful dialogue between all parties. It means implementing methods of communication that actually help your workplace collaboration, such as openly sharing ideas, listening to feedback, and working towards a common goal.

Office workers spend around 57% of the day in online meetings, emails, and chats, according to new Microsoft data. Why does it matter? All that extra admin can make us feel bogged down. 60% of leaders say they’re already feeling the effects of all those distractions, noting the impact on innovation in their teams.

When we get stuck in ineffective routines, these communication channels can actually discourage teamwork and leave employees feeling isolated.

Simply sending emails back and forth about a project might count as communicating, but are employees truly engaged and collaborating with those types of methods? Probably not. That’s why it’s important to instead seek out tools and processes that can help your team members truly connect with each other and the work that they’re doing—i.e. collaborative communication.

Let’s take a look at some of those next.

How to create a company culture of collaborative communication
While it may seem obvious that working in a group can improve performance and results, many companies don’t have plans for improving internal communication. A lack of clear guidelines for employee communication can be frustrating to team members and even cause delays in project completion.

Let’s walk through a few strategies for encouraging your team to communicate and collaborate more efficiently.

Create the right environment
As a leader, creating an environment that encourages and rewards collaboration is the key to meeting your goals and supporting your staff. It’s important to establish a culture of trust and respect where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas or opinions. This is also known as psychological safety.

A strong culture of collaborative communication will help your team be more open and agile while achieving their goals. There are several ways you can foster collaboration as a manager, and it’s up to you to set an example. Here’s how:

Make everyone feel comfortable speaking up
When most team members are really excited about a project or idea, it can be difficult for employees with dissenting opinions to feel comfortable speaking up. No one wants to be seen as being too negative, but in reality, having people on your team who can provide “reality checks” is essential to the success of your projects. Don’t discount anyone’s ideas when they speak up, but practice listening actively and encouraging open dialogue.

Encourage open and honest feedback
Open and honest feedback should always be welcome, and make sure that you are always actively listening to what your team members have to say. If you like Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream, you’re already benefiting from the power of crowdsourced ideas: This flavor was designed and voted for by the public, making it instantly popular after launch. Just like your work initiatives, if you crowdsource ideas first, you’re more likely to get buy-in later.

To gather more honest and creative insights, consider having an anonymous feedback survey your team can use. You can also have a regular meeting where anyone can discuss what’s on their mind and ask questions about new projects or processes.

Provide communication tools and resources
Providing access to the tools and resources your team needs to work efficiently is a great way to improve collaboration. A platform like Switchboard can help your team feel engaged and connected, with features such as collaborative virtual rooms where all members can work on the same documents at once.

Switchboard users can open up to 10 browsers and work together on any web-based app with no integrations necessary. For example, all team members can simultaneously view and interact with the same website or contribute to the same Google Doc or Sheet. This goes far beyond the typical one-way screen sharing and makes it easier to communicate—and collaborate.

You should also document your communication guidelines in standard operating procedures (SOPs) and encourage people to set boundaries about checking notifications out of hours. These ensure everyone is communicating in the right way and know what to expect from each other—and help you collaborate without burnout.

Celebrate successes
Be sure to celebrate your team’s successes and learn from failures together. For example, if you meet your targets for the quarter, celebrate with an outing or fun activity. If something needs improvement, schedule a time when you can brainstorm together. You can also use a dedicated Slack channel to shout out big and small wins so people’s achievements are recognized.

Fostering an environment where efficiency and achievements are rewarded and celebrated is a great motivator for team collaboration.
Know which channels to use and when
There’s a time and a place for each communication method or platform. We’ve all been in situations where we think to ourselves, “This meeting definitely could have been an email.” If what you’re communicating is short and straightforward, and only requires input from one or two people, an email or a message could be sufficient. Otherwise, consider making a video walkthrough with a tool like Loom or Snagit so team members can watch it when it suits them.Know your team’s communication and working styles
The communication methods that work best for one team or individual might not work for another. As a people manager, it’s your job to know your employees’ working styles and the processes that help them collaborate with each other and thrive. Some might prefer more rigid communication guidelines and consistent project management workflows, while others find these restrict their creativity and momentum.

For example, if you’re working on a long-term project, you might consider using a digital workspace like Switchboard that can help your team pick up where they left off. Its persistent rooms mean anything team members add to the canvas stays there, so you can pick up where you left off next time.

It’s okay if it takes a bit of time to find the right collaboration tools and communication style for your team. Just remember to keep an open mind and encourage an environment where they feel comfortable giving constructive feedback and suggesting improvements. One of the fastest ways to hinder collaboration is by forcing your team to follow guidelines that clearly aren’t working for them, so be prepared to adapt as needed.

Get buy-in from the team
Rather than trying to implement new communication tools and workflows without involving your team, consider asking for their suggestions and feedback from the very beginning. Asking your team for their opinions before creating new processes that impact them sets a great example of collaboration. After all, Ben wouldn’t change their best-selling Half Baked ice cream recipe without getting Jerry’s input first.

For example, if you want to change your team’s content publishing process to be more efficient, host a group brainstorm so your entire team can suggest improvements that benefit everyone.

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