Managers are always looking for an edge or a hedge – an edge to get ahead or a hedge to hide behind. When your team has trouble collaborating, you have a tendency to inch closer to the hedge. It’s easy to forget with a few modest changes in approach, you can turn that direction around and be successful.
I’ve partnered with Microsoft Office to learn more about collaboration and productivity and in doing so have come across the notion that collaboration has become a ten-cent word. It’s thrown around a lot in business settings, to the point of being an entry on the buzzword bingo card. (Along with ‘synergy’ and ’innovation,’ among others.) Yet, collaboration is an inherent need in every organization.
Still, perhaps by the commonality of the idea or maybe due to lack of understanding of its importance, managers and employees alike, seldom enter the collaborative process knowing what psychological elements make it work. Fortunately, there is quite a body of research available to inform them and drive better results.
Microsoft Office’s eBook The Psychology of Workplace Collaboration spells these out. The focal points of team psychology in the book are:
- Better collaboration requires “good” stress like clear job descriptions, challenging workloads and variable responsibilities
- Accommodating the introverts (or extroverts) on the team by allowing for different meeting and work styles
- Providing more feedback, more often
- Accessing our brain’s “default network” which is driven by random activities and play, not structured meetings and tasks
When I look back at the best teams I’ve been on, the manager in question knew these things and provided for them. And it’s not just about who has a formal dress code or which office has Ping-Pong tables. It’s an understanding of the human psychology of work and working baked into the manager’s experience that fuels great collaboration.
One of my favorite bosses — Georgetown College athletics director Jake Bell — used to have football coach-like rigidity in dress, punctuation and group activities. But he also knew that I needed creative space and relaxed work hours to feel motivated to not just do my job, but invite others to the table to collaborate with me.
In the agency world, both major agencies I’ve worked for created open, collaborative work environments and encouraged employee participation and feedback in tasks that weren’t necessarily their per view, knowing the feeling of contribution would fuel frequent feedback and ideas from everyone.
Ironically enough, a young, hip, Millennial-aged manager I know is frustrated with his team because they aren’t as productive as he’d like. Alas, it may have something to do with the fact he only gives them access to meetings, information and opportunities that pertain to their role and doesn’t embrace the unit as a capable team to tackle the various projects together. Perhaps he’ll read this and try something new?
As you grow into your career as a manager, whether of a small business or a marketing team, you will likely use a previous boss or team environment for inspiration. If you truly want to achieve optimal collaboration, make sure the inspiration you’re using is from a job where the boss looked for the edge and not the hedge.
For more on workplace collaboration, check out the eBook from Microsoft – The Psychology of Workplace Collaboration
Disclosure: This is Microsoft-sponsored post.