10 easy steps to boost team collaboration

There’s no “I” in team. That’s what soccer coaches, decorative throw pillows, and even a Taking Back Sunday song tell us. But being a team player is important on and off the soccer field—after all, everyone works on a team of one sort or another. Maximizing your team’s collaboration skills is the secret to unlocking great work.

In order to get to a place where your team is effortlessly collaborating, here’s how to set yourself—and your team—up for success.

What is team collaboration in the workplace?

You can think of collaboration as the grease that makes teams work. Workplace collaboration is the cornerstone to building great teamwork—collaborative teams work together to brainstorm new ideas, complete expansive projects, and achieve their goals. At its most simple, a collaborative team is one that accomplishes more together than the individual team members could on their own.

Depending on your role, team collaboration in the workplace can look a little different:

  • For team leads, team collaboration can help you best allocate work to simultaneously make your direct reports shine, expand their skill sets, and help them advance their careers.
  • As an individual contributor, team collaboration helps you communicate more effectively with your team and work together to get great initiatives done.
  • For cross-functional collaborators, team collaboration is critical to making sure work moves along smoothly. Without a clear way to work together and communicate, your team can end up siloed, and work can end up falling through the cracks.

The benefits of team collaboration

When your team collaborates, anything is possible. Collaborative teams reap the benefits of:

Open and honest communication

In order for teams to be able to work together effectively, you have to be willing to ask questions, dig into specific points, and even disagree in order to move work forward. Though open and honest communication isn’t always the easiest—or most comfortable—being a collaborative team means co-creating to build better solutions, listening to input from other team members, and working together towards your goals.

Engagement and creativity

Think back to a truly great brainstorming session you had. The team was probably overflowing with new ideas—building off of each others’ suggestions to come up with an absolute gem of a plan. That’s the magic of team collaboration—on their own, your team couldn’t have come up with the solution you landed on. It took all of you, engaging and creatively feeding one another, to get to where you did.

Increased visibility into work

When team members are working together, they’re constantly involved in each others’ work. Because they’re contributing to joint initiatives or problem-solving together, team members need to share and talk about their work—which leads to increased, team-wide visibility.

10 tips to promote team collaboration

So you want to build a collaborative team: now what? Boosting team collaboration isn’t as simple as turning a switch “on” or “off”—it takes dedication and focus from company executives and team leaders. But if you’re ready to reap the benefits of team collaboration, here are 10 tips to help you build a collaborative company culture:

1. Foster collaboration as a value

This one might seem obvious, but it’s critical to actually establish that collaboration is important to you and your team. Not every team values collaboration—some teams are driven by competition or individual prowess. Take time to clarify that team collaboration is important and lay out how your team will get there.

“With Asana, our whole organization is so collaborative. It’s broken down silos between teams and projects, helping people realize where they fit into the larger scope.”

2. Establish communication conventions

Part of the way you can build and boost team collaboration is to create guidelines for your team to communicate and work together. Remember: at first, collaboration won’t be effortless. It’ll take time working together for team members to become fully comfortable with one another—and that’s ok. But by sitting down and co-creating your team’s communication conventions, you can make the journey easier.

Take some time to decide:

  • What should be communicated through email?
  • What messages should be sent through your direct messaging system?
  • What information should be shared via your project management tools?
  • Is there a preferred meeting day or time?

Knowing when not to communicate can be equally helpful. Make sure you create time for deep focus work, and encourage employees to set themselves to Do Not Disturb if need be, or to block off their calendars to avoid piecemeal meeting days. At Asana, we practice No Meeting Wednesdays, which makes time for everyone—from the newest team member to our executive leaders—to dig into work.

“As an organization grows, communication starts to bottleneck. At Hope for Haiti, we’ve seen those inefficiencies hurt us: when we can’t run like a well-oiled machine, we’re not serving as many people as we could be—and it’s our responsibility to improve upon that.”

3. Invite co-creation

The core tenet of team collaboration is that teams can do things better together than they can alone. So one of the best ways to promote team collaboration is to invite co-creation. Don’t just tell team members to work together on a project—instead, hold brainstorming sessions, invite discussion, and open the door to disagreement. Co-creation means building an idea together, not chipping away towards a goal separately.

Co-creation doesn’t have to be face-to-face, either. Asynchronous brainstorming sessions can be incredibly beneficial. One simple way to co-create with a virtual team is to all collaborate in a Google Doc—simply open and build on each others’ ideas.

“Using Asana is all about knowledge sharing. The more features we discovered and introduced to different teams, the more everyone saw the value of using the tool and began using it.”

4. Encourage open communication….

… and mean it. Collaboration happens when team members feel like they can bring their whole selves to work. Team members should be encouraged to participate, innovate, and communicate. Instead of holding back their thoughts or reigning in their feelings, they can be themselves and bring all of the great ideas that come with it.

[Read: How to build inclusive communities when you’re remote]

But open communication also means that, sometimes, people are going to disagree. Disagreements are not counter to team collaboration. In fact, healthy disagreements and open conversations are critical to unlocking successful team collaboration.

“Using Asana to respond to requests helps me be completely transparent with cross-functional stakeholders about team bandwidth and deadlines.”

Shani Tucker, Graphic Designer, B Lab

5. Lead by example

It’s hard to build a collaborative team without a collaborative leader. Collaboration starts at the top, so make sure you are always inviting co-creation, encouraging open communication, and making time for your team to innovate and collaborate. Encourage team members to reach out to you if they have questions, or schedule a 1:1 for some extra meeting time.

“Asana provides an opportunity for me to work with people across the business, from the CEO to people on my team in a more streamlined way. It makes me a better leader.”

6. Build time for team bonding

When was the last time your team got together to just… chat? Team building activities aren’t just a great way to release steam—though they are—they’re also an opportunity to get to know each other outside of a work setting. What is your coworker's life goal? Where is your boss from, and how did that affect her experience? What did your new teammate do before their current job? Teams that get to know each other inside and out of work know each other better—so when tensions rise or work gets hard, they can more easily communicate to diffuse the situation and collaborate more effectively.

“I don’t want people to burn out. I want them to be good to each other and enjoy their time at work. Asana helps us do that.”

7. Highlight successful teamwork

Everyone loves to be recognized for a job well done—and congratulating team members on successful teamwork is no different. If two team members work together to bring a new idea to fruition or lead a particularly difficult webinar, take time to give them kudos. Ask team members to share their impressions about their experience—what worked well? How did they collaborate and work together to achieve their goal? This not only gives them a well-deserved moment in the spotlight, but it can also serve as a blueprint for other team members to collaborate in the future.

“Before Asana, we never had a way to track all of the cross-functional work happening across multiple projects. Now we can see everything on a granular level and our sprint commitments crystal clear.”

Bart Johnston, Senior Manager of Web Development, Hudl

8. Offer mentorship opportunities

Building team collaboration is a soft skill: in fact, it's a combination of interpersonal and communication skills. Every individual team member can work to improve those skills—but sometimes, an external perspective can be incredibly helpful. There are some intangibles that come with work experience, time spent at a company, and familiarity with the market or job function—and new employees may be itching to learn more. Encouraging mentorship opportunities within your company can help the entire team improve.

“Asana allowed us to see the overall amount of work that we were actually doing, and then it allowed us to be able to reprioritize and re-strategize the types of work that we were doing.”

9. Set goals collaboratively

How does your team set goals? Goal-setting is an incredibly important part of any team; it can help you align on what’s important and execute towards those goals. Oftentimes, goals are set from the “top-down,” which means leadership set goals and the metrics of how to get there. This can help your team or company reach a common goal—but it doesn't give your team a chance to collaborate and innovate on how they can reach the goal.

Consider setting hybrid goals—where team or company leadership set the main objective, but individual team members are encouraged to set their key results or KPIs on how they’ll achieve the objective. You can workshop and brainstorm these metrics, but opening the door for team members to be involved in goals can make them more interested in achieving the goals.

[Download ebook: How to set OKRs the right way]

“Asana has made us better project managers because it encourages an accountability mindset for every employee.”

10. Use shared tools

The best and easiest way for your team to work together is for you to collaborate in a single, shared tool. When you have a central source of truth, all of your teams' work is happening in the same place. Any new updates, shared files, or additional context are all easy to find. By reducing the barrier to working together and collaborating, you're empowering your team to do more together effortlessly.

“A team’s collaboration and communications tech stack are crucial, even more so now because of COVID-19. Because of the setup we had from day one with Asana and our other tools, we hit the ground running when we started working from home. There was no disruption in our workflow or output.”

Rossa Shanks, Chief Marketing Officer, Dow Jones

Best team collaboration tools

Collaboration apps can help your team more easily communicate, share files, and coordinate on work. Try these tools to help your team promote effective collaboration:

A file sharing tool like Google Workspace, Microsoft Office, or Dropbox

One of the biggest barriers to team collaboration is having to endlessly search for documents, or wait for an email reply before you can access a file. With a centralized file sharing tool, your team has a shared knowledge base and file depository they can access.

A communication tool like Slack or Microsoft Teams

How does your team currently communicate? Rapid communication for simple asks or fun moments of team bonding can be critical for team collaboration. A good team is in constant contact—even if they're not constantly talking. This is especially important if your team is remote. While a meeting or a huddle are a great way to communicate, a messaging tool provides easy access to all members of the team.

A video communication tool like Zoom or Google Meet

For remote teams, video conferencing is critical for team collaboration. Increasing face time with your team can help create a collaborative environment—even while you're working remotely. Make sure everyone on your team has access to create video meetings and knows how to use your tool.

A work management tool like Asana

Work management is the linchpin of your team collaboration strategy. With a work management tool, you can easily align on team needs, visualize work in real time, and clarify goals. Naturally, at Asana, we think Asana is a pretty good tool to help your team do just that. Asana is a work management tool that helps your team organize work, stay in sync, and hit your goals.

Asana also integrates with all of your collaboration tools, so you can limit toggle fatigue. The average employee switches between 10 tools per day—but with Asana, all of your favorite business tools are easily accessible in one place.

Learn more

The challenges of team collaboration

We've covered the benefits of team collaboration, and how to get your team to the point where collaboration feels effortless. And while there's no downside to correctly implemented collaboration, there are some pitfalls you can run into while implementing these strategies:

Too much information
  • The Problem: When teams implement new collaboration strategies and tools, work is no longer siloed. Without a proper work management system, it can be difficult and overwhelming to navigate the new information your team has access to
  • The Solution: It's important to establish communication conventions early on in the process. When your team knows exactly where things will be, how things are shared, and what they have access to, they have clarity instead of confusion. It's also important to choose a work management tool that allows you to adjust privacy information on work, so you can coordinate and collaborate most effectively.
Too many notifications
  • The Problem: Now that everyone is connected, your inbox keeps “dinging” with new information, and you can hardly get any work done.
  • The Solution: Make sure your collaboration software offers easy access to any relevant notification controls. Choose solutions that offer Do Not Disturb and “unsubscribe to notifications” features, so your team can more easily focus on the work that matters to them.
Slow adoption
  • The Problem: Your team is dragging their feet on implementing some new policies and using some of your new collaboration tools.
  • The Solution: Make sure you start off small. We recommend implementing one new workstream or project to get the feel for your new processes and tools. It's also helpful to have internal champions who can guide others on the adoption journey. At Asana, we've developed the Asana way of Change to help teams successfully implement new practices. See how it works.
Slow results
  • The Problem: Team performance hasn't improved, and the team dynamic doesn’t feel like it’s changed, either.
  • The Solution: When it comes to boosting team collaboration, you might not see results overnight. But helping your team gain clarity and visibility is only a good thing. Try establishing clear goals and metrics of “where you are” when you start, so you can look back and gauge how things are progressing over time.

Collaboration makes teamwork work

When your team collaborates, you can do great things. At Asana, we believe in team collaboration so much, we made it our mission to help the world's teams thrive by working together effortlessly. So from our collaborative team to yours: good luck.

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