Building a great team was hard enough when the office was a place where we all gathered and worked from.
But now, in the new reality of working from home the majority of the time, helping your team collaborate effectively has become even more challenging, but all the more important.
Here are three evidence-backed ways that you can turbo-charge collaboration within your team:
1. Make every meeting meaningful
Most meetings are like Dementors. They suck the life out of us. This happens because most meetings are poorly prepared and inefficient. A survey of 38,000 people by Microsoft revealed that 69 per cent of people feel meetings aren’t productive. Research also suggests that 90 per cent of us daydream in meetings and 73 per cent of us use time in meetings to do other work.
However, meetings play a critical role in team collaboration, as a large amount of teamwork happens within them. In addition, more than 15 per cent of a person’s job satisfaction is based on how happy they are with the meetings they attend.
Brian Scudamore, founder and CEO of 1800-GOT-JUNK, refuses to attend meetings unless they have a PAO – Purpose, Agenda, and Outcomes.
Scudamore explained to me on the How I Work podcast: “For every meeting, someone has to specify the purpose, the outcome, and a brief agenda. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a ten-minute meeting or a one-hour meeting. If there’s no POA, the meeting doesn’t happen.”
What to do: To further aid in creating better meetings, give people clear roles. Every meeting needs a facilitator and a scribe, so nominate these upfronts.
The facilitator’s job is to ensure that the discussion is kept on track and the intended outcomes of the meeting are achieved. The scribe takes notes on the critical points but may also be the person nominated with ensuring next steps actually happen.
Finally, given we spend so much time in meetings (it is estimated that the average executive spends 23 hours per week in them), invest time in training staff on how to conduct great meetings. Research has shown that only 25 per cent of workers have received formal training in how to conduct effective meetings.
2. Fight, then unite
Great teams have great debates. University of California, Berkley, Management Professor Morten Hansen found that teams that are able to “fight” (have healthy and active debates) and then “unite” (agree on a decision) are far more effective in achieving their outcomes.
Paul Migliorini, head of Amazon Web Services for Australia and New Zealand, spoke to me on How I Work about one of Amazon’s 14 leadership principles: Disagree and commit. At Amazon, people are encouraged to have robust, data-driven debates.
But rather than strive for consensus, it’s about finding the best solution for the customer. Migliorini explained to me: “We shouldn’t be mild about making decisions and we shouldn’t be consensus-based because if we land on the wrong answer, it’s going to mean a bad outcome for our customer.”
What to do: To have an effective debate, Hansen suggests showing up to every meeting prepared and having a point of view that is delivered with data and conviction.
But it’s also critical to stay open to other views and ultimately, let the best argument win (even if it isn’t yours).
3. Practice discipline in collaboration, too
In his book Great at Work, Hansen reminds us that the goal of the collaboration is not collaboration – it’s to achieve the goals that have been set for the team. More collaboration does not always lead to better outcomes.
Instead, Morten recommends being disciplined with collaboration. People obviously need to avoid working in silos and under-collaborating, but equally, people need to avoid collaborating with others unnecessarily.
What to do: To decide whether or not to collaborate, start by working out whether there is a compelling reason for the proposed collaboration. If there isn’t, stop right there. If there is, make sure a unifying goal is set that excites the team. And finally, reward the results, not the activities, driven by the collaboration.
By following these three strategies, you’ll have turbo-charged the way your team collaborates in the remote working world.
And if and when your team does eventually head back to the office, the effective collaboration will feel like a walk in the park.