Last Updated on January 19, 2021

4 Effective Ways To Collaborate With Your Team

4 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.


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.


2. Understand Your Team’s Perception of Collaboration

An important, early step in preparing your team for more effective collaboration is to discover 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.


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.


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: Christina @ via


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Candace Doby

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

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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.


Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]


Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]


3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?


The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via


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