The Secret To Effective Team Collaboration

by Orrin Broberg, on Nov, 26, 2013

“Not finance.  Not strategy.  Not technology.  It is teamwork that remains the ultimate competitive advantage, both because it is so powerful and so rare.”  Those are wise words from Patrick Lencioni, author of “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.”


Bold moves are rewarded in the business world and standouts get all the glory.  Look at industry icons like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk and you’ll see what we mean.  Each is a forceful individual with a presence that’s almost too big to be contained by one company let alone the walls of one room.

However, the most effective way you can build your own business’s success is to create a well-oiled machine—a team that works like a finely tuned engine rather than a collective of dissimilar parts.  Slow and steady wins the race isn’t something you hear much in business periodicals or online training.  All of these experts are telling you to do radical things (smartly) and wait for the tremendous results to roll in.  However, having a team in place that can deliver results when you need them, every time you need them, is often a more sound strategy than shooting for the stars and hoping you don’t fall short.  But how to you get your team members on the same page?

But, believe it or not, the number one secret for effective team collaboration is individuality.

Opposites Attract

Research from the Korn/Ferry Institute shows that “although teams are ubiquitous in organizations, most employee-related functions are individualized (e.g. selecting, training, evaluating, rewarding).  Such a disconnect between an organization’s need to foster effective teams and its natural tendency to focus on the individual employee can create many problems.”

However, it’s specifically this balancing act of bringing individuals together that creates effective team collaboration in the workplace.

To use a baseball analogy:  you can’t build a winning team with 9 Cy Young Award winning pitchers.  You need fielders, basemen, a catcher who won’t drop the ball when it counts, and batters who can bring the heat.  Building a successful team in the business world is just the same.  You can’t slap together a handful of top-tier salespeople and expect results if the support personnel behind the scenes are pulling their weight.

Indeed, Susan Cain, author of “Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” says that some of the best players on your squad may be closeted introverts but “see themselves as independent and individualistic."   Sports teams, SEAL Teams, even the A-Team work so well together because they bring together operators with very different skillsets.  In your case, this may mean:

  • Pairing your sales staff with experienced support professionals so your customers aren’t turned off when they can’t get the service they need after the sale.
  • Brining in a third-party copywriter to boost the effectiveness of the web design your tech team put together.
  • Hiring a flexible (and reliable) part-timer to fill in when one of your regulars calls out.
  • Getting your research team on the same page as your management crew in order to minimize misunderstandings.

Whatever business you’re in—auto repair, edible flower arrangements, finance, legal consultation—bringing a group of individuals with diverse backgrounds, experience, and approaches to problem solving can only benefit your bottom line.

Unless, of course, you ignore personality compatibility.

Separating Personality and Professionalism

Meshing personalities is the “the secret behind the secret” of team collaboration.  While a person’s skillset can be changed over time (through training, mentoring, or even just job experience) they’re personalities are resistant to change.  Personalities are, in essence, the culmination of that individual’s entire life history, not just their work history.

Scot McCarthy, Director of Workforce Development for Centra, says that “when people are not able to open up their minds to the view points [sic] of others, that’s when the conflict shifts from providing positive stress to distress and then creativity and productivity starts to shut down.”  Therefore, it’s essential that you look at the interpersonal skills of your best and brightest.

Carrie Williams, HR specialist for Lynchburg’s Business Magazine notes that mixing disparate personalities may be as simple as fine tuning communication within your operations.  Of course you want to make sure that your message is coming down from the top as clearly as possible but also analyze how your team members communicate between themselves.

Under no circumstances should bullying, backstabbing, or exclusion be tolerated.  These tendencies crate a rift in the team that you’ve built from scratch and can kill your results before they’re even in sight.

Of course, there are a number of technical resources you can use if your own “people reading skills” aren’t up to par.  The MBTI test (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) can be useful though it has come under fire recently for being less effective than its popularity suggests.  However, often simply observing employee interactions can let you spot when team members are rubbing each other the wrong way.

Building Your Team

Building and fostering trust within your employees, rewarding success and learning from failure, and harnessing conflict correctly are all essential management-level skills that need to be developed.  Your team is only going to work as well as you let it and if you’re bogging down the works through micromanagement or failing to provide positive reinforcement, your team may come right off the tracks.

Arek Skuza, CEO of iTraff Technologies, proposes one interesting method with which you can metaphorically and literally “team build” at the same time: make hiring (or member recruitment) a team activity.  By doing so you’ll not only allow your employees to choose with whom they’d like to work but also show faith in their overall abilities.  However, as with any aspect of running a business, you must constantly monitor your special teams in order to maintain productivity and forward thinking.  The final word (and the responsibility) rests with you.

What do you think is the secret to effective team collaboration? Leave a comment for us below.

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