Culture: 5 Guidelines for Cultivating a Culture of Collaboration

Many organizations suffer from a rigid focus on work, excluding the basic human needs of autonomy and interaction with others. Creating a culture of collaboration immediately addresses this, instantly resulting in performance improvement and increased morale.

Collaborative cultures make it easy for people to come together and move apart. Contrary to popular thought, they do not force people into inappropriate cooperation.Rather they support the coalescing and dissipation of groups, effectively responding to need.

Collaborative cultures serve both individual and the company. More robust solutions are developed. Thinking is tempered and enriched by multiple perspectives. And, expertise stays in the organization even when employees move on.

Collaborative work environments make it possible for partnerships to prosper, inside, outside, and across the organization. Create an environment in which people can more easily adapt to day-to-day needs and challenges, and use them to rise to new levels of performance.

Cultures are living systems. They cannot be assembled like a machine. Rather, they are cultivated. Here are five guidelines for cultivating a culture of collaboration in your organization:

1. Build Engagement in the Workplace

Gallup research shows engaged employees are more productive, profitable, customer-focused, and safer. Engagement results from having clear expectations, building relationships at work, and being cared for.

How: Get and read a copy of 12: The Elements of Great Managing (Wagner, Rodd, and James K. Harter, Gallup Press, 2006). Based on 10 million workplace interviews this book provides 12 indicators of employee engagement with examples on how to implement.

2. Increase Trust through Emotional Intelligence

Enrolling critical stakeholders begins with personal contact. Knowing how to successfully navigate the terrain of emotions will take you to the heart of trust building.

How: Identify and align with emotional currents. For example, in difficult times, find appropriate ways to create comfort – bring in coffee, take people to lunch. Conversely, when there is something to celebrate, leverage the event to spread joy. Identify the emotional currents in interactions and work with them to create positive outcomes.

3. Create Space for Connection

People gather. If they can’t in the office, they’ll do it outside. By providing places for people to converse, you bring social assets into the organization.

How: Ensure unused conference rooms are available for anyone who wants to use them. Make this explicit. Set up chairs or a couch in an area where conversation won’t disturb others.

4. Condone Connection Time

Make sure people know it is okay to meet and greet, or congregate to think together.

How: Make drop-in time easy and encourage its use. For example, use this rule: When my door is open, please stop in. When my door is closed, please do not disturb.

5. Favor Flexibility

Embrace multiple styles and perspectives. There is positive impact on business productivity and job satisfaction when people do an excellent job of handling others’ behavior, even when it varies from the norm.

How: Highlight styles that are out-of-the-box. Identify and acknowledge alternatives that present real solutions.Make diversity welcome.