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How to Encourage Better Collaboration

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I want to encourage more collaboration among the people I manage. Can you help me with some ideas?

A: Encouraging collaboration starts with you. How collaborative are you with your peers and your team? Staffers take their cues from their leaders, so first make sure you examine how well you work with the people around you.

If you want your team to work better together, you need to tell them why it's important. Some people don't understand the value of sharing ideas as a way to improve the organization as a whole—they only see what winning means to them personally. So, get your team together and discuss the real benefits of collaboration. Share stories of where you've seen collaborative efforts move projects along, result in a major grant, or solve a membership issue. Stories will be motivating and memorable to your team.

Take some time to think about what else might be getting in the way of collaboration. Here are some questions to consider:

  • How are people rewarded? Is collaboration rewarded either financially or through recognition? If not, encouraging it on your team may not be enough. Consider some no- or low-cost incentives to reward collaboration.
  • Share stories of where you've seen collaborative efforts move projects along, result in a major grant, or solve a membership issue.


  • Are there physical spaces for people to gather to work? If you team works in cubicles, do they have access to a space for a collaboration session? Encourage your team to be creative when finding space to collaborate. They might meet over lunch in a nearby restaurant or, in good weather, in the park across the street.
  • Do you have team members who telecommute some days or every day? While no rule says everyone has to be in the same room to collaborate, face-to-face interaction does facilitate teamwork. If that's not possible, consider providing technology tools that allow people to collaborate remotely, such as video conferencing and virtual white boards.
  • Is your team diverse? Diversity, especially diversity of thought, is key to effective collaboration. Consider this when filling an open position or putting teams together.
  • Are you available when the team needs you? Be sure to listen and respond when they need you to hear their ideas or answer a question. Don't say no immediately to an idea that may strike you as difficult or unrealistic. That will kill collaboration faster than anything else!

Collaboration can be a powerful tool to help your organization grow and prosper. If you do your part, odds are your team will respond, and you'll see results.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer in "Ask the Expert"? Send it to [email protected]

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