How to Lead Collaborative Teams
Being a leader in today’s work environment is a whole lot harder than it used to be.
If you think it was challenging in the “because-I-said-so-age” when managers could emerge from corner offices, dictate a series of tasks, check on their progress, deliver praise or blame depending on how things turned out, and keep people informed on a “need to know” basis, you can’t begin to imagine what it is like leading today’s collaborative work teams.
If you are physically working with your team, chances are you all share one big workspace. More likely you are leading a team of experts from different geographic locations and time zones.
These teams demand to know the big picture and where their tasks fit into it, and there’s a good chance they know a lot more about the project they are undertaking than you do.
How do you adapt to this new kind of leadership?
The tried and true leadership attributes of the past – trust, transparency and realistic expectations – go a long way towards dealing with the demands of the present.
What will change most is where you focus your energy, how you get your team members to contribute their best ideas and solutions, how to leverage current opportunities, and how to learn from every experience rather than play a praise or blame game.
Leading in this kind of environment means always being conscious of your team members and making it clear what their roles are, what tasks they are responsible for, and how they purport to manage their task load responsibly. This is especially vital when the team members are a mixture of full-time employees and consultants brought in just for this project.
How can you ensure success with your collaborative team?
Start by ensuring that you establish either a physical or virtual place for team members to meet, talk and share relevant materials and stay aware of project progress. If you are physically under one roof, create an open space that visibly encases your team and allows them to collaborate easily. If you are a virtual team, use a program like Active Collab (www.activecollab.com) or other productivity program that makes it easy for all team members to keep up with what is going on.
Ensure that you set the tone by bringing all team members into the big picture and being open and collaborative in your own leadership style. Your example will set the tone for how others will respond and contribute. Be especially mindful of creating a work culture that values sharing and praises it to allow individual team members to get over the boundaries they place around themselves.
Ensure that each term member is selected not only for their skill and expertise in dealing with the project subject, but also that they have reasonably good communication skills. It is also a good idea to include a few people who already know each other on the team, since they will find it easier to share information, and the newcomers will pick up the importance of that in their team work culture.
Support the sense of comraderie that comes from working together. When everyone is in the same physical environment, this can be simple exercise like bringing in a pizza for a quick noon meeting or getting everyone tickets for a hockey game. This is more challenging when the team meets virtually, but try to build bridges between team members by determining things they might have in common that can be worked into casual conversations.
Be flexible in swinging your focus between task completion and relationship building. If that seems complex, it is. But a good strategy with collaborative teams is to focus a lot in the beginning on assigning the tasks and getting people working quickly on what needs to be done, and then shift slowly more into relationship building as the project nears completion.
Your goal once you assemble a great collaborative team is to keep them primed and ready to take on the next challenge.
Paula Morand is a leadership building, revenue boosting, strategy expanding keynote speaker, author and visionary. This dreaming big and being bold leadership expert and brand strategist brings her vibrant energy, humor and wisdom to ignite individuals, organizations and communities to lead change, growth and impact in a more bold fashion. 24 years, 27,000 clients, 34 countries, 15 books, former radio personality, 11x award winning entrepreneur and humorous emcee.
Check out Paula’s best selling books: “Bold Courage: How Owning Your Awesome Changes Everything”, “Dreaming BIG and Being BOLD: Inspiring stories from Trailblazers, Visionaries and Change Makers” book series; and due to be released December 6th “Bold Vision: A Leader’s Playbook for Managing Growth” go to Amazon http://ow.ly/i8yW307ix67
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