Sometimes I feel like my friends and I talk about work WAY TOO MUCH in our personal lives. But then I look around and realize that we all went to journalism school together and have subsequently ended up in mostly corporate marketing departments, so it’s only natural that we bounce thoughts off of each other every once in a while.
A theme that’s come up a lot lately is how much time we spend running our ideas past other people in our respective departments. This is what some companies like to advertise as “collaboration,” which has come to translate into, “You have to get 9 people to sign off on your idea before it’ll work.”
So how collaboratively are workplaces actually functioning? And what’s the actual difference between workplace collaboration and micromanagement? Here are some things you should consider when deciding to say your team is “collaborative”:
Know what the actual definition of collaboration is. Collaboration means that you’re working together and cooperating to achieve a common goal. It doesn’t mean that you’re having one person pitch an idea and then have the rest of the team tear it apart and offer “feedback.” But it also isn’t taking the old college group project mentality either. You have to find the right balance, letting your team members use their most valuable skills to conquer a problem.
Make sure your team members have something to own. Whether it’s assigning project managers to each project, or simply splitting smaller projects up amongst your team members, it’s incredibly important for your team to be able to learn and grow as individuals in their roles. You want your team members, especially in a small organization, to be well rounded. And only encouraging them to use their best skills all the time will short change you, and more importantly them, in the long run.
Try to eliminate constant review points. One of my biggest frustrations working in the corporate creative (oxymoron?) world is having several levels of review points before an idea can officially be a good one. This stems from a large team of people who haven’t been empowered to make decisions on behalf of the business, so they have to pass it up and up and up before they feel validated. Follow the project along and offer insight, but don’t force review points. This can make for a “too many cooks in the kitchen” scenario, which literally benefits no one.
Encourage an open environment. My team is incredibly collaborative. We all have our own projects to own, but we are constantly forced to flex into one another’s roles to keep up with business needs. We each know enough about what the other does to be dangerous, so we make sure to offer insight whenever possible, but also work together to accomplish a task. We sit in a place where our partners can walk in and ask questions of the entire group and engage with each of us to come up with the best course of action. Encourage your team members to have an open door policy and keep each other updated on what they’re doing, allowing other team members to flex in when support is needed.
How collaborative is your team? What are some of your secrets to keep the atmosphere productive? Share them in the comments below!