Collaboration – Key to Workplace Success

Many of you operate highly successful, growing companies—places where the work environment is energized and your teams work hard, have fun, and enjoy their jobs. Unfortunately, this type of workplace is too often in the minority.

In survey after survey, many Americans report that they simply do not like their jobs. In fact, according to the Conference Board’s latest survey, only 45% reported that they were satisfied with their jobs, a big decline from the 61% who were satisfied 20 years earlier. This is sad because if you are going to spend the majority of your life doing something, you should enjoy it.

So I got to thinking about the places where I enjoyed my job the most. As I considered them, I realized that the jobs I have enjoyed were ones where the environment was positive and the workplace was collaborative. In general, these were places where employees actually enjoyed working together to achieve common goals.

How do successful leaders create environments where collaboration is the norm and encouraged? Is that even possible in today’s workplace given the pace of work, quantity of the work, and productivity demands placed on today’s workers?

I would say yes it is possible and, in fact, probably what our businesses need now more than ever before. Chances are good if you can create a collaborative work environment for your company, you will see a dramatic increase in productivity and, in turn, job satisfaction (which we all know leads to employees staying with you longer).

Teach Collaboration Techniques

Fortunately, according to the Harvard Business Review, there are some very basic behaviors you can encourage to create a collaborative environment in your company. According to researchers, collaboration does not come naturally to most people. This finding is not surprising.

We live in a highly competitive society, a society that rewards winning at all costs. Unfortunately, too many employees bring this mentality to the workplace and act as though they are in competition with their fellow employees.

The vital first step is training your employees to collaborate – encouraging behaviors that lead to the actual act of collaborating with each other. Train them to appreciate the input of others when facing decisions. Teach them to actually engage in conversations that are productive, that focus on mutually solving problems.

Get to Know One Another

Once you have the process engaged, next, it is vital that employees actually know each other. As simple as this sounds, it is really quite powerful. Employees that know and understand each other tend to work better together than those that do not. Of course, not everyone that works on a team has to be friends and even interact socially. However, if you provide situations and social events where people are encouraged to mingle and get to know one another, when they return to work, chances are better that you will have a more collaborative group.

Walk the Walk

Finally, and most importantly, you as the owner of your company play a key role in teaching collaboration. How do you do that? By your actions. If you are collaborative and your employees see you acting in a manner that encourages teamwork, they will follow your example and do the same. Of course, the opposite is true as well. If you are not collaborative, chances are good your employees won’t be either.

The best way an entrepreneur can model collaborative behavior is seeking input from your management team on a regular basis. Instead of modeling “my way or the highway,” demonstrate that your ego can handle the input of others. The good thing about producing this behavior is that it will also help you make better decisions. You can’t know everything, nor should you try. Seek input from those around you and they will do the same with their teams.

Also, encourage your managers to resist the “silo” method of management. Silo management is where each department heads views his/her department as a world unto itself and does not see the big picture or often value what other departments do to make the company successful.

How do you prevent the growth of silos? By again showing your leaders that EVERY department and every department head is valued in your organization. Basically, don’t play favorites.

Creating a collaborative environment will not guarantee success. But it will certainly help and if you do it right, you will actually make your workplace more enjoyable and rewarding for your employees. And employees that enjoy their jobs and the people they work with stay longer!

What Buyers Want

Keep in mind, too, that one day you will most likely sell your company. During the due diligence phase, buyers will look closely at your management team and its cohesion. If they sense that the environment is not collaborative and that silos dominate, they will have concerns about the long-term success of the organization after you depart.

This idea of creating a collaborative environment is not just a touchy-feely idea created by some Ivy League researchers. No, it is vital not only to your company’s long-term success, but it could ultimately impact what you are able to do with your company.

If you would like to learn more about building a buyer ready business, one that epitomizes collaboration and other key traits buyers are looking for, I would encourage you to download the Generational Equity free whitepaper on this topic. Written by Ryan Binkley, president of the firm, it is full of great ideas on how to create a business and a workplace that buyers will find attractive. If you would like a copy, you can download it by clicking here.

What techniques have you used to encourage collaboration in your company? Have you found collaboration helps improve productivity?

 © 2011 Generational Equity, LLC All Rights Reserved

About Carl Doerksen

Carl Doerksen is the Director of Corporate Development at Generational Equity.

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