Better collaboration takes cultural competence

With teams and businesses increasingly connected in this globalized business world, collaboration is a must. However, collaborating closely – especially across cultures – may not come easily to some leaders and employees. Individuals and units within a company may think of themselves as separate entities, but it is helpful to comprehend that everyone within an organization is connected and part of a larger whole.

Below are three steps to building better collaboration on the team and organizational levels.

Act with the Common Goal in Mind
Failure to collaborate can result from individuals or teams not acting with the broader organizational vision in mind. One common occurrence is units focusing on their individual budgets without taking into consideration how that affects the overall company’s bottom line. For example, one unit might take extra money for training just to secure money for itself in the future, even though this is not good for the organization as a whole.

Leaders need to make sure to spread the vision of the company and reinforce how each unit’s budget line reflects the whole. Having regular group meetings in which team and departmental leaders go over budgets, plans and strategies is a good way to emphasize the connectedness of the different units. It is also a good way to keep track of any developments than may derail collaboration. Holding regular “touch-base” meetings is also a good idea on the team level so that individual colleagues can keep up to date with each other’s work and developments.

Maintain Integrity and Transparency
One of the biggest barriers to collaboration is the lack of trust. Every individual and team within an organization needs to act with integrity and transparency. After all, if people suspect their colleagues or leaders are hiding information, they will lose trust in them and abandon their common goals.

Organizational leaders and their employees should make sure they keep promises they have made, share information with each other, and keep each other up to date on developments, even if they don’t necessarily believe their colleagues will find certain information useful; the spread of information spurs trust and thus, collaboration. For any information that must be kept confidential, leaders should make sure their employees understand the private nature of it, and know why it is not being shared with them.

Assume Positive Intent
Not only do individuals have to act with integrity, but it is important that they assume that others are acting that way as well. It is helpful for people to consider the reasons their colleague or leader might be behaving in a certain way before assuming bad intent.

Leaders can also boost good relations among employees by communicating positive expectations of them. It is important to try to not sound condescending while doing this, though. One way to do this in a positive way is to establish goals for employees to use as a motivational tool, providing positive feedback and encouragement along the way.

Building a collaborative workplace has many benefits for the employees and the larger organization. When people are given a common goal, operate within a transparent environment and assume positive intent, they are more likely to feel interconnected and work together toward the company vision.

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