When collaboration does not come naturally, make it a team sport

Remote teams are filled with diverse personalities, which can be a huge asset. At the same time, collisions and roadblocks can lead to collaboration issues.

Imagine this example… A meeting starts out as normal, but you quickly realise that you’ve heard a lot more of one person’s voice than almost everyone else combined. Meet The Broadcaster – a personality type more concerned with filling the air with their own views than coming to a helpful, jointly owned outcome. Less collaborator, more dominator. They don’t seem to realise the offputting nature of their dialogue – wait, monologue.

Even so, as your team’s leader, it’s your job to build an environment where teamwork can thrive. So what does it take to create genuine collaboration in remote and flexible teams? It takes a mindset built on empathy, valuing collaboration and team orientation.

1. Empathy

Based on a Forbes article, empathy is the top quality of a diverse and inclusive workplace. An empathetic team mindset creates better communication and resilience, helping to mitigate any personality roadblocks that cause unneeded hurdles for your team.

Empathy is the ability to step into someone else’s shoes, to understand their perspective, acknowledge their emotions and opinions and react with compassion.

The physical distance of your remote team can create psychological distance, which makes empathy harder to create.

Here are some ways you can build empathy in your team:

  • Encourage active listening: This includes being present for conversations and demonstrating that you care through your reaction.
  • Give five positive comments for one negative piece of criticism: Stacking the compliment-to-criticism ratio in favour of compliments helps people grow, instead of dwelling on mistakes.

Deliberately incorporating empathy helps humanise your conversations, building greater trust and transparency for your team.

2. Values

Values help establish shared clarity and buy-in to what is important. Well-developed values become the yardstick for team behaviours, including collaboration.

A team that operates based on shared values brings out their strengths in autonomy and self-awareness. Strong values help each member know what’s expected of them, builds trust and a healthy team mindset.

When your values include teamwork, communication, or achieving results, everyone has a reason to be good at collaboration.

Consider these tips when you incorporate collaboration into your team values:

  • Make collaboration a true team effort: Gather ideas and allow time for reflection. Engage with your team, so the values you land on align with them on a personal level.
  • Be specific, not merely aspirational: As Michel Feaster of Usermind suggests, “The problem with values like ‘respect’ and ‘courage’ is that everybody interprets them differently.” Avoid adding ambiguous values that could create friction, rather than uniting your team.
  • Allow your values to evolve as your team or company matures: You may decide to revisit your values annually or more frequently, based on changes in your team.

3. Team Orientation

Patrick Lencioni’s model on The Five Dysfunctions of a Team has been the basis of understanding high performing teams for almost two decades. Team orientation is a critical layer. If a team member loses sight of their role as a team player, which is even more significant than their individual achievement, results will suffer.

The mindset of your team should be oriented towards the team, even if this comes at the expense of your own ego, career development, or recognition.

Here are some reminders for orienting your team toward the team, not themselves:

  • Create shared goals: High performing teams work towards goals that everyone has their eye on, not their own individual goals. Shared goals are a rare but powerful way to get a clear focus on ‘team’.
  • Talk about teamwork as a team sport: There is no ‘I’ in ‘team’. As cheesy as it sounds, this phrase reminds us that team conversations that use ‘we’, ‘us’ and ‘our’ directly reflect a shared reality, not an individual one.
  • Raise visibility of shared context and issues: Knowledge is power. Too often leaders hold back key information that could shape and direct the work of the team. There is a rise in the demand for transparency by employees – in large part because they want to be involved in solving problems jointly. Create visibility of the problems, don’t hide them away.

The keys to a strong mindset of collaboration – empathy, valuing collaboration, and team orientation – help build resiliency for your team. An empathetic, team-oriented, values-driven mentality helps to avoid situations that could derail teamwork. Developing this mindset will set your team up for productive, collaborative work that drives company success.

Transformed Teams can support your team to build a stronger mindset so that collaboration comes easily. Find out about our Remote Team Master Plan.

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