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Published on January 11, 2021

3 Effective Ways To Collaborate With Your Team

3 Effective Ways To Collaborate With Your Team

Team collaboration doesn’t always come easy—especially if you’re a young leader who’s just begun building interpersonal skills and trust among your group. You may find that your attempts to collaborate with your team get burdened down by competing goals, cultural barriers, or physical distance. These hurdles may be enough to make you question if you have what it takes to bring people together to rally around a common goal.

Well, you do.

But you may need to switch up how you approach team collaboration. Instead of focusing all of your attention and energy on working together with your team, you might want to try to first understand your team—starting with you and your role on it.

1. Understand Your Role as a Leader on the Team

The role of a leader in team collaboration is to guide the team to success. Two important ways for a leader to do this is to clarify goals and to encourage participation from the team.

Clarify Goals

A few years ago, one of my colleagues was promoted to oversee marketing strategy for a territory and to take over the team she once was on. In her first opportunity to collaborate with her new team on a sales-building plan, she comfortably buried herself in the details of execution and jumped straight into the logistics of the plan.

These were actions she previously took that helped her find success in a supporting role on a team. But effectively collaborating with a team when you are the leader requires something different. It requires you to release anxiousness about your own performance and think bigger and more strategically. It calls for you to clarify the goal you want the team to work toward and establish a process for working toward it.

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Without a clear objective, collaboration can look like a chaotic brainstorming session with confusing next steps rather than a deliberate process that increases productivity. My colleague quickly found that out and was able to adjust her approach.

In a survey conducted by Slack, respondents said that the explicitness of a goal is crucial in effective team collaboration.[1] When a leader doesn’t clarify a goal, the team has a more difficult time understanding their responsibilities and communicating with teammates.

Encourage Participation From All Team Members

In addition to coming to the table with a clear goal for your team to focus on, you as a leader can foster effective team collaboration by inviting and encouraging all team members to share their unique perspectives and ideas. Teams are made up of people with varying personality types and work styles who may not always feel comfortable or compelled to speak up. But the best team ideas are often generated when every person on the team contributes.

When I worked in marketing, I managed a young woman who was introverted and who was raised in a culture where women, especially, didn’t speak unless they felt like they had something “notable” to say. What this person classified as notable was often a high, almost unreachable, bar. So, I made sure to prompt her, when appropriate, to offer her thoughts during team collaborations.

When you are a leader who wants to collaborate effectively with your team, it is important to note who overpowers conversations and who is underrepresented in them and create a balance. According to introvert expert Jennifer Kahnweiler, Ph.D., leaders who want to foster more team collaboration among introverted players may also consider giving team members opportunities to contribute solutions to problems in writing rather than nudging them to speak up verbally.

Once you’ve spent some time understanding your roles as a leader in fostering team collaboration, you can think about and focus on understanding your team.

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2. Understand Your Team’s Perception of Collaboration

An important, early step in preparing your team for more effective collaboration is to discover out how your team perceives working together.

When I began managing a team, I noticed, at times, that my team held back their ideas during brainstorming sessions and other meetings. They had reservations about sharing their ideas with a wider group. I initially wondered if this was because they lacked confidence in their ideas or if they simply didn’t have much to share.

What I came to understand after inquiring about this pattern was that former attempts at team collaboration had sown a sense of distrust among the team. Under previous leadership, team members had shared their ideas freely, and those ideas had been freely (and falsely) claimed by others as their own.

A leader’s role in creating a collaborative team environment is to understand how their team approaches working together—to assess what beliefs or assumptions the team holds that could negatively or positively impact how they collaborate toward reaching a team goal. For many leaders, this assessment may lead them to remove the fear or need for competition among teammates by creating a team culture where all ideas are acknowledged and credit for them is shared often.

Collaborating with your team can be easier and more effective once you’ve uncovered and clarified perceptions that your team has about working together. Those perceptions may be a mix of positive and negative outlooks, but once you know what they are, you can work to dismantle or reinforce them.

3. Understand Your Team’s Motivations

Several years ago, I needed my team to work together to come up with a marketing plan to drive traffic during a low season. I considered it logical to think that the team’s goal and success would be enough to drive each team member to commit fully and execute flawlessly. But I learned that there was more to the motivation. My team members were equally interested in using collaboration opportunities to develop functional skills they had identified as important to them, like data analysis, written communication, and cross-team networking.

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Teams are made up of people, and people have individual goals, even when working on team projects. This doesn’t mean that they come to the team table with hidden motives to overthrow the group’s mission or steal the show. What it does highlight, though, is the intrinsic nature for people to pursue personal growth, even when they work with other people.

Understanding this can help a leader better collaborate with his or her team and help the group reach its individual and collective goals.

4. Understand Each Team Member’s Strengths

Leaders can level up collaborations within their team when they understand and draw out the strengths of each team member.[2] This equates to leaders helping their teammates participate in projects in a way that aligns with their best skills.

When I needed my team to collaborate on creating a marketing plan for reaching delivery customers, I knew which team members were drawn to and strong at research, strategic thinking, written communication, and verbal feedback. Knowing this helped me guide collaboration within the team so that each team member could contribute and shine. It also helped establish roles and clarify responsibilities as our project progressed.

It’s also important for each team member to know their own strengths and value the strengths of other team members so that the team can more effectively connect with each other.

If you’re not sure what strengths your teammates possess, you can start by asking them. or you can think back to their past performance and pinpoint where they performed confidently. Many leaders also rely on results from workstyle assessments to help them understand their team members’ strengths. No matter what approach you decide to use, you’ll find that knowing your team’s strengths creates an important pathway to effective collaboration where team members feel valued and supported.

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Final Thoughts

Team collaboration isn’t always easy, but there are ways for you as a leader to collaborate with your team more effectively. That often includes investing in an effort to understand your team—their perceptions, strengths, and motivations around collaboration.

Teams are made up of individuals, and it’s important to know how those individuals perceive teamwork. Past experiences may have positively or negatively influenced their current ideas about working with a team, which could impact future outcomes. Collaborating with a team can also be more effective when everyone understands the strengths and motivations of each team member. Knowing this can help the team better work with and relate to each other.

But before you put in herculean energy to understand your team, it’s important to first understand your role on the team. Leaders play a critical role in establishing goals for team members to work toward and define success. When you collaborate with your team, remember that you also play an important role in fostering a team environment where everyone feels safe and supported in contributing their ideas.

More Tips on Collaborating With Your Team

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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Candace Doby

Speaker, author and coach helping young leaders build courage in themselves.

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

    More Productivity Tips

    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

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