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Tips for building a collaborative culture in your team

Leah McKerrow
Leah McKerrow
Saturday, May 6, 2023

Collaboration improves performance. But building a collaborative culture within teams is not easy. Yes, team members might say that’s the environment they want, but unless you know the underlying mindsets, the chances are it’s a nice aspiration, but behaviours won’t support it.

Tips for building a collaborative culture in your team

I recall taking over a credit team when I worked for a Finance company. I had zero credit background, but there were plenty of experts in the team already. When I started, the relationship between the sales and credit team was tepid, at best. The sales leaders were keen to tell me all the things my team were doing wrong. It was deflating to say the least. And the behaviours from both sides could not be described as collaborative. In fact, combative would be a fairer description.

When I spoke to my team, of course they had a different view. The sales team continued to get things ‘wrong’. Or things were missed. It was an on-going issue, and after a while it appeared they sought out these errors to prove a point. Hardly relationship enabling stuff that collaboration is built on.

I started to understand the mindset that underpinned my team’s decisions and actions. They were so focused on the process and catching the sales team out, that we’d missed what we were there for. To help customers. To lend money. Prudently and wisely, but we were there to lend money.

Setting about changing the mindset was about going back to our business purpose. Connecting the team to why we were there, and how we needed to go about it. And, by building a stronger connection with the sales team (i.e. talking to them). When we did that, they were more open to talking about the quality of applications. Analysts worked more closely with sales, seeking to understand our customers’ situations, and helping to ensure applications had what was needed for, ideally, approval the first time.

Collaboration does not often happen on its own in the business world. It needs attention, and a mindset that supports, not undermines, this way of working. And if you’re wondering how to get started, I’ve collated our top eight tips to help you get underway.

8 tips for improving collaboration in your team.

#1 Clear communication.

Get everyone involved and communicate expectations, agree responsibilities, clarify purpose and goals to ensure that everyone is aligned.

#2 Know the mindsets that exist.

Which one’s support collaboration, and which ones don’t.

#3 Active listening.

Encourage active listening, with head and heart, by giving all team members an opportunity to share their ideas and perspectives. A safe to speak space.

#4 Embrace diversity.

Recognise and value the unique skills, experiences, preferences and perspectives that each team member brings to the table, and different teams as well.

#5 Be flexible.

Be open to different approaches and be willing to make changes to accommodate the needs of different teams.

#6 Foster trust.

Build trust among team members by being transparent, honest, and reliable. Stay connected and take opportunities to spend time together,

#7 Set good standards.

When everyone is clear on standards and what’s expected, it’s easier to do good work and let people get on with it.

#8 Celebrate successes.

Take the time to celebrate team successes, both big and small, to build a positive team culture and foster a sense of unity.

Shift mindsets and the behaviours will follow.

While slow to begin, we managed to shift the mindset and ultimately the behaviours, so it felt like we were all working with one another not against. And with greater collaboration came less rework, better quality applications, higher customer satisfaction and more sales.

Team conversations are critically important to improving the way we work, getting everyone aligned and hearing all voices. Looking back, I would have loved a simple guide to help me shape up these important discussions. So, we’ve taken our learnings and built them into Leadrly's Team-talks 'how to' guides to equip leaders to communicate, collaborate and lead their teams with confidence.

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