4 Essential Team Collaboration Skills

While collaboration is considered a soft-skill, it is often a key requirement for prospective employees. Almost every job in business today requires some amount of collaboration between different individuals, teams, departments, partners or vendors. Collaboration happens when team members need to work together on an ongoing activity, as well as when cross-functional teams are assembled to carry out a specific project.

Effective collaboration skills allow for openness, respect, and trust among team members. To ensure your employees’ team collaboration skills are on-point, educate them on the following four key ingredients to successful collaboration.

1. Clear roles, responsibilities, and goals

When a team is assembled to work on a project, the first thing to do is figure out what the overarching goals are and who is going to do what.

Agree on roles and responsibilities that capitalize on each member’s individual strengths and build a consensus around how the team is going to move forward toward their goals.

2. Open communication

Communication is one of the most important team collaboration skills. Collaboration can’t happen without team members consistently communicating with one another, so if you’ve got a team of poor communicators, it’s going to be a rocky road.

Effective communication starts with listening. Team members need to actively listen to each other rather than talk over each other. Individuals should feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, concerns and frustrations with the team and working through them together and not in fragmented groups. This also means making sure quieter team members have a chance to be heard.

Communicating smoothly also requires mutual respect and trust among employees that is earned through action and evidence, not just talk. And even in the most cohesive, trusting groups, miscommunication does happen. But these hiccups don’t have to delay progress. Being aware of common miscommunications can help remediate the situation quickly:

  • Misunderstanding: This happens when someone doesn’t understand something correctly, which can lead to incorrect assumptions about action items, deadlines and outcomes. To prevent misunderstandings, your team should reflect on and “recap” what was discussed to ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Non-understanding: This happens when someone misses out on a piece of information. It can happen due to an overflow of emails or missing important meetings. To prevent non-understandings, teams should use a tool that lets them communicate in real-time and provides accountability. Emails are easily lost in cluttered inboxes and don’t reveal who has read them. Business chat apps are great for collaboration because people tend to respond immediately and there is visibility into who has “seen” the message.

With open, continuous communication at the heart of collaboration, success is definitely within reach.

3. Conflict resolution

Conflicts can bring a project to a stand-still, but with the right perspective and a little patience, teams can quickly resolve any conflict. The key to remember is that a conflict shouldn’t become a fight. As Marty Zwilling explains, “Conflicts are normal and required factual pushbacks in business, whereas fights are emotional, often personal, disagreements which do not lead forward to consensus.”

To effectively manage disagreements, teams members need to:

  • be willing to find solutions
  • speak respectfully with each other
  • analyze problems without assigning blame
  • take responsibility for mistakes
  • compromise when necessary to move the group forward

The right balance of considering everyone’s opinions and pushing forward toward an agreeable decision leads to an effective resolution.

4. Recognition for all contributors

Recognizing the efforts of everyone on the team is crucial for building team cohesion and preventing burnout and frustration. As humans, we love receiving recognition and validation for the hard work we put in and it inspires us to keep on chugging. With everyone heads-down working on their tasks, it can be easy to forget to take a moment to appreciate and recognize the work that team members are putting in.

Giving credit to collaborators doesn’t have to be a formal process. It could be as simple as mentioning the great job Greg did on creating the project timeline when discussing who will take responsibility for upcoming action items, for example.

Collaboration in the Digital Age

There is seemingly an endless number of collaboration tools on the market today, allowing people across the globe to work together. Investing in these tools at your company can make a big impact on productivity, especially when teams are made up of remote or dispersed employees and contractors.

And while using technology is definitely a team collaboration best practice, it’s even more important that employees develop the key skills for collaboration to produce results. Above all, employees must be honest, respectful and able to openly and effectively communicate and resolve conflicts.

ABOUT Kristen Wells

Kristen is the senior manager of corporate communications at PTC and editor of Field Service Digital. She is passionate about elevating the stories of women in field service and improving communication between the field and the office. Prior to ServiceMax, Kristen held content marketing roles at startups such as Zinc and cielo24. Kristen holds a B.A. in Communication with an emphasis on Professional Writing from the University of California, Santa Barbara.