We now know humans aren't naturally wired for teamwork. And organizational psychologist J.Richard Hackman sets forth five conditions that must be in place for collaboration to actually happen in a workplace setting. But, say you've got those factors in place — what else needs to be done in order for teamwork to just... work?

That's where these 4 collaboration secrets come in.

Gleaned from high-performance teams across some of the brightest stars in the startup and business worlds, these tips and strategies are guaranteed to uplevel your teamwork in ways that might surprise even your most jaded team members.

It all depends, however, on how ready you are as a leader to step into some uncharted territories.

Collaboration Secret 1: Let Everyone Speak Equally

If you're talking 90% of the time at your team or department meeting, chances are, no one's collaborating. Here's a tip for you: learn to shut up and pass the ball.

A study on team effectiveness done by Google's People Operations group found that when teams had equal chances to talk, they:

  • Were less likely to leave their job
  • Were more likely to use diverse ideas in their work
  • Brought in more revenue
  • Were rated as effective twice as often by executives

This is the logic behind the daily standup meetings in an Agile team: everyone gets a chance to speak so they can highlight their work and their roadblocks. And if people take a struthious attitude when it's their turn to speak? The positive peer pressure of everyone taking turns encourages even your quieter members to come out of their shells and participate.

TIP: Psychological safety — the feeling of security that no one will mock you or shut down your ideas when you speak — is essential to collaborative teamwork. If people aren't given a chance to speak, you think they'll feel secure enough to contribute to an ongoing project? Absolutely positively not.

Collaboration Secret 1: Let Everyone Speak Equally
Letting everyone speak equally is step one to getting collaboration flowing smoothly in your team.

Collaboration Secret 2: Take Risks Together

Is everyone playing it safe? No new, unique ideas or startling discoveries? That's because no one is taking risks.

It goes back to that psychological safety. If people on your team feel that the others don't have their backs, they're not going to do anything risky that would open them up to criticism or reprimand.

Why would they try a new process if they'll only be blamed if it fails? Better to coast along and stick to tried-and-true formulas even if they don't yield massive success. After all, safety and status quo are more desirable than trying something drastically different and being ridiculed for it.

Here's the big problem with playing it safe: you can't increase your business velocity or even innovate at the speed of customer demands without taking risks.

TIP: Here's my question for you: are you taking risks yourself? And are you admitting your mistakes when you fail? Your team will follow your example. If you want them to take risks, you've got to lead.

Furthermore, are you creating an atmosphere where it's safe for your team to be bold and adventurous in trying new tactics?

Collaboration secret 2: Take risks together
If you want them to take risks, you've got to lead the way

Collaboration Secret 3: Clarify Expectations

In our Work Management Survey, we asked over 1,400 office workers what factors led to work-related stress. And among the top 10 answers were: unrealistic goals for projects (49%) and unclear task accountability (44%).

Level of stress experienced by workers ranked by cause of stress.
Level of stress experienced by workers ranked by cause of stress.

Time and again, you'll find that clarity and transparency — whether you're talking about goals, deadlines, or assignments — helps relieve the tension of the unknown. Your workers will know where they stand because it's clear what's expected of them. End result? Your team can be mentally free to work out the Gordian knots in their projects without the stress of uncertainty.

Collaboration Secret 4: Do Work That Matters

If you want happy, engaged workers who are motivated to get their work done, then author Daniel Pink points to three factors: worker autonomy, mastery of skills, and purpose in their work.

The added bonus of imbuing your daily tasks with a purpose is that it energizes teammates to work more fluidly together. When you can see how your work benefits a cause larger than the individual, this drives you not only to do outstanding work but to collaborate selflessly with your team.

Collaboration secret 4: Do work that matters.
Help your team see the big picture and how their daily tasks contribute to that vision.

Time For You To Lead The Way

I challenge you to count how many organizations you've been in that practice the above four collaboration secrets. My guess? One. Maybe two if you're lucky.

But the real reason why so few companies practice these strategies? They lack courageous leaders who will stand up and protect a healthy and collaborative work culture.

Are you ready to change that? Then take a stand. Be bold. Lead the way.

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