Entrepreneur John R. Dockendorf is a passionate professional with over three decades of experience building and leading successful small businesses in various industries, including hospitality, service, skiing, outdoor recreation, travel, and more.
In his opinion, every successful business lives and dies based not necessarily on the products and services it sells but on the teams behind it all. Those teams must be communicative and collaborative – understanding what they need to do as individuals to help contribute to the business’s larger objectives and mission.
If you’re an entrepreneur looking to build more collaborative teams to help achieve your goals, there are several essential best practices to remember.
Collaboration Begins at the Top
For Dockendorf, one of the most important ways to build collaborative teams involves getting executive support as early in the process as possible.
If you value collaboration, you must be a role model and show that you are willing to collaborate. If you want to encourage and support social relationships, you need to have a strong presence and show what you value. In other words, the difference between a leader and a great leader is that the latter leads by example and has a larger-than-life presence. Strong communication and example from the top enhance collaboration enormously.
The Importance of Corporate Culture
Another important way to build more collaborative teams is to create a “gift culture” in the workplace whenever possible. That is to say, ensure you’re not just delegating responsibility or “telling people what to do.” It’s making sure employees know that mentoring and coaching are an essential part of the company’s culture and something almost every employee is expected to do each day. Both in terms of the opportunities for mentoring made available to employees and the wisdom more senior members of the team can pass down to less experienced members.
This promotes a sense of inclusivity – a feeling that “we’re truly all in this together.” It’s not a “quid pro quo” culture, mind you. It helps to underline that when people come together, they can accomplish more than they could as individuals. This in and of itself promotes collaboration, both on essential projects and in day-to-day life in the workplace. A key here is to reward teams for their success, not individuals, and to praise and reward the people who are teaching and sharing best practices with others. It’s all part of creating an organization that values sharing, learning, and growing rather than a highly individualistic organization that praises only individual success.
Collaboration is a Skill that Must Be Learned
Finally, John urges anyone who wants to create more collaborative teams to make sure they’re filling available positions with people who have the skills to do so in the first place.
You can create a culture of inclusivity where mentoring and coaching are ingrained in the very DNA of the company. Still, it won’t necessarily make much of a difference if you’re surrounded by people who lack the skills needed to work in tandem with other people.
That means looking out for people with good social skills and people who have experience being successful members of teams. People who have demonstrated empathy, consideration, kindness, and inclusivity.
Candidates should demonstrate a history of successful teamwork or an aptitude for working with others. Avoid candidates who seek the limelight or advance at the expense of others. Summer camp counselors, successful athletes, Peace Corps volunteers, and people who have worked at busy and successful service establishments may be good initial screens if they have the associated hard skills you need.
Look for people who can engage in thoughtful conversations, asking meaningful questions.. If they encounter conflicts – and all businesses have them – they must show that they can be productive, empathetic, and proactive about resolving them.
Finding employees who show these skills, or training your existing employees in these areas, can make a massive difference in how teams collaborate with one another.
Not only will it help team members come together, but it also brings with it the most crucial benefit of all: improving the quality of work that you’re capable of doing for your clients and customers simultaneously and creating a workplace where employees take pride in their relationship to the organization, feel valued and feel like they are contributing to something bigger than self!