What do the “The Avengers,” “The A-Team,” “The Expendables,” and “X-Men” have in common? They are all stories of individuals combining their talents to achieve a common goal. Teamwork brings victory in the world of fiction, and it can help you succeed in business, too.
Collaboration is a big theme for small businesses today for a reason: It works. As CEO of the first e-commerce company in the commercial printing space, I know the importance of building a team-oriented workforce. People thrive in an environment that frees them to collaborate. When my employees experience job satisfaction, my customers reap the benefits.
However, implementing this approach can be challenging. It requires a complete paradigm shift to change the focus from individual accomplishment to team success.
The first step to getting started is equipping each team member to participate. Here are six ways to cultivate a collaborative environment:
1. Communicate company expectations.
Define roles and responsibilities within the team, and make it clear that collaboration is the minimum standard. All team members should understand their positions and what is required of them.
In a collaborative environment, every team member takes responsibility for good outcomes. At my company, we have a “Project Insta-Team,” or “PITstop” process. All our employees, from sales to manufacturing, have the power to stop any order to ensure accuracy and quality, and members of our team know that they are all held accountable for customer satisfaction.
2. Set team goals.
Set concise, measurable goals on a quarterly basis. Getting the team to focus on goals will keep individual efforts aligned with desired outcomes. Be willing to reevaluate goals as needed. All our quarterly goals are published on our company intranet. Each quarter, we post the outcome of each goal. This keeps us focused and transparent.
3. Foster a creative atmosphere.
Allow team members to question and brainstorm in a non-judgmental framework. Encourage the team to view all obstacles as conquerable. Nurture a can-do company attitude. Ask why — or why not — on a regular basis.
One way we cultivate a creative atmosphere at my company is by providing leadership training that encourages character development. We purposefully hire employees who aspire to be and produce their very best.
4. Build cohesion.
Include every person on the team in as many large decisions as possible. Initiate daily team huddles where each member shares what he or she will be accomplishing that day, and have a means to communicate workflows to avoid duplicating efforts. This keeps everyone on the same page and enables team members to redirect their efforts as needed.
5. Know one another.
Every team is full of different personality dynamics, skill sets, and experiences. It’s worth the effort to have each member complete a simple personality profile. Share the results, and openly discuss likes and dislikes regarding communication, tasks, and personal focus.
At my company, we use Insights Discovery to provide a personality and work style assessment. We print the resulting insight color graph on each team member’s nameplate.
6. Leverage team member strengths.
Position each team member for success by assigning tasks that play to his or her respective strengths. Reward both individual and team accomplishments regularly.
Establishing a collaboration policy is just the beginning. Collaboration must be consistent and deliberate, and you must dedicate time and resources to it. You may have many superheroes in your office already, but you can increase your productivity exponentially by getting them to work as a collaborative team.
Andrew Field is the President and CEO of PrintingForLess.com, a print and marketing technology solutions company that prides itself on being called “America’s Print Shop.” Connect with Andrew on Twitter and Google+.
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