I've been working with engineers since 2012, they're an awesome bunch (also married to one and friends with many, so I am VERY familiar with this breed), creative, passionate, dedicated, considerate and funny.
They’ve also taught me a very important lesson, which has turned into my passion and my business. The longer I have spent talking to engineers, the more I hear the same thing time and again….that collaboration and teamwork are the things that either make or break their projects. Every. Time.
If you ask what went right:
“We spent time building good relationships early on with people in the client team”
“We spent time making sure the team had a good bond and understood each other”
“Everyone was open to discussing issues”
“The client/contractor trusted us”
If you ask what went wrong:
“Other (internal) teams are in competition for revenue, everyone is looking after their own area”
“People didn’t flag up potential problems in time”
“We struggled to discuss fee negotiations with the client”
“People just weren’t talking to each other”
All of these are factors of collaboration. The problem is that, just like leadership, it’s something that we have historically presumed people just know how to do. That it is somehow innate in us once placed in a role where we have to interact with others to be successful. You’d think, as human beings, that this would be second nature.
Now, before you throw up your arms and cry that collaboration is at the heart of all your projects, let me say that in many cases the intention and behaviours are good. My point and my purpose (in my work and in this blog) is to point out that with a focused, well guided approach to collaboration projects in all industries can deliver much more on speed, cost and quality AND create teams that smile more during the tough times.
So why did I start a business that focuses on great collaboration and teamwork?
Because when it breaks down it’s the cause of so many problems we’d love to solve. It causes siloed working, competitiveness, stops people sharing good ideas, creates systems failures and a generally unhappy vibe in your team.
But when it’s good our work is faster, costs are lower, innovation and problem solving come more easily, our people are happier and open to supporting and challenging each other.
Because when I work with people on collaboration, be it collaborative leadership, collaborative behaviours for bids or with complex project teams, I see people’s eyes light up as they realise there IS a different way to do this.
So, rather than bash you over the head with Why you should focus on teams, here are some of my basics for How to build a collaborative team.
Trust - building trust breaks down silos. Creating a psychogically safe environment helps your team to understand they are able to speak up and share concerns and new ideas. Where there is conflict, try to understand the source (usually misperception of other’s motivations) and generate productive conflict instead.
This video gives you two simple ways to get started:
Framing - frame your project vision in the context of the learning opportunity. Highlight everyone’s role in the team, why they have been picked and why they are important. This helps individuals to buy into a shared goal. Insights here from Amy Edmondson, author of Teaming
Finally, LISTEN - to what your people say and create environments for them to listen to each other. Ensure everyone has a voice. Nancy Kline's Time to Think for teams video is worth watching on listening.
The trick for me is providing an evidence base and real tools then applying those on live projects with individuals and teams so that you have happier, more successful people working together.
More about these in my future blogs...
Ffion Jones - is founder of Beautiful Minds. Her experience in collaborative leadership and behaviours, group coaching and creating learning communities has shown how powerful it is to develop teamwork and collaborative working. She focuses on how much teams can achieve when they are given the opportunity to focus on how to work together.
Next public course - Firing Up Your Team, Collaborative Leadership