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How Effective Collaboration can Improve Business Agility

By Shandel McAuliffe | |7 minute read
How Effective Collaboration can Improve Business Agility

With the impact of COVID-19 still playing out across the business landscape, knowing what to expect next has become harder than ever.

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Organisations that used to have structured, multi-year plans in place are now finding that making predictions just months ahead is problematic. Ways of working that were in place prior to the pandemic appear to have changed forever.

Encouragingly, however, there is a way forward. The business agility and innovation required to succeed in this new environment can be achieved through a strategy of effective collaboration.

Due to the nature of how the world now works, however, waiting for in-person team bonding exercises to rebuild a collaborative environment is no longer a viable option. Hybrid work practices are likely to remain the norm for a considerable period.

Therefore, now is the time to establish practices that strengthen collaboration across the organisation. The best way to begin this process is for leaders to first understand how their team members best collaborate. Only then can businesses provide workers with the needed solutions to excel in today’s hybrid working environment.

In Lucid Software’s 2022 The Way We Collaborate Report, research shows that more than 50 per cent of knowledge workers self identify with one or more of three collaboration styles: expressive, relational and introspective. By understanding and supporting these collaboration styles, workers can become even stronger assets and help create teams that contribute to organisational stability.

The expressive collaborator

Expressive collaborators prefer to see ideas sketched out during working sessions. They may enjoy collaborating with drawings, graphics, visual presentations of data and sticky notes. These collaborators prefer to work in teams and are more likely to express themselves with GIFs and emojis.

How do leaders support expressive collaborators?

Avoid meetings that are dominated by talking heads or text-heavy documents. Instead, enhance meetings with charts, diagrams, images and emojis to help them express their ideas.

You can also provide spaces for unstructured discussion, such as a blank whiteboard canvas, to better enable a natural flow of ideas and creative freedom.

The relational collaborator

For relational collaborators, hybrid meetings aren’t very collaborative – usually due to technical limitations. For them, meaningful, human connection with co-workers brings greater value to the work environment. As a result, hybrid meetings can be energy draining for relational collaborators, so they tend to avoid meetings more than the average employee.

How do leaders support relational collaborators?

Fast-paced virtual meetings may be leaving relational collaborators behind. Catering to these collaborators requires leaders to create time during meetings where team members can pause and make more meaningful connections on which these collaborators thrive.

To bring out the best in these workers, try incorporating activities such as team bonding exercises or breakout sessions that facilitate more intimate discussions. In these settings, you’ll find these collaborators feel more valued and are more willing to open up about relevant topics.

The introspective collaborator

Introspective collaborators are more naturally introverted and prefer to collect their thoughts before offering a suggestion. These collaborators gravitate toward a more thoughtful, deliberate approach to collaboration. They’ll take their time to plan and consider their ideas before contributing in a meeting. Additionally, they are more inclined to express frustration with hybrid meetings, believing they don’t generate enough progress because of a lack of clear action items or follow up.

How do leaders support introspective collaborators?

Introspective collaborators desire both tools and practices that enable them to hone their ideas before sharing with a larger group. Approach each meeting or work session with an agenda, a way to provide feedback asynchronously and a formalised process for documenting follow up and action items. By incorporating effective facilitation and clear expectations to hybrid meetings, introspective collaborators can bring their best ideas to the table.

Collaboration enhances culture

For an organisation to build a culture of strong collaboration, there is work that must be done. Companies need to invest in resources and practices that will adequately supplement the way their team members prefer to work. By enabling effective collaboration, teams can then create an environment that minimises worker frustration but maximises contribution.

It needs to be recognised that different staff will have different requirements when it comes to the tools they use for collaboration. Leaders need to understand those individual needs and then build an infrastructure that can provide the required support.

Once this has been achieved, all team members will be best enabled to be as productive, engaged and innovative as possible, whether working in the office or from home, leading to greater organisational stability and agility.

James Harkin is the senior director of sales, APAC at Lucid

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel McAuliffe

Shandel has recently returned to Australia after working in the UK for eight years. Shandel's experience in the UK included over three years at the CIPD in their marketing, marcomms and events teams, followed by two plus years with The Adecco Group UK&I in marketing, PR, internal comms and project management. Cementing Shandel's experience in the HR industry, she was the head of content for Cezanne HR, a full-lifecycle HR software solution, for the two years prior to her return to Australia.

Shandel has previous experience as a copy writer, proofreader and copy editor, and a keen interest in HR, leadership and psychology. She's excited to be at the helm of HR Leader as its editor, bringing new and innovative ideas to the publication's audience, drawing on her time overseas and learning from experts closer to home in Australia.

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