Successful leaders include their team members, as well as anyone else who will be involved in a project, in the planning for it. By including those people from the beginning, they create greater investment in the goals they want to achieve and the strategies needed to achieve them. They will know, for example, when their timelines are too tight or if they need to provide more resources. If they’re aware of these problems upfront, they will have time to make adjustments and won’t be blindsided when due dates aren’t met or if tasks aren’t accomplished well.
Unsuccessful leaders often think that, because they are the designated decision-makers, they should make all decisions on their own, and team members must do whatever it takes to implement those decisions. This attitude might work for a short while, but it ultimately results in high turnover, unhappy team members, and poor results. People are more engaged and effective when they have some control over their work, and collaboration is the key to increasing engagement.
If collaboration doesn’t come naturally to you, here are some tips you might consider.
- Start by conducting regular team meetings. Sometimes people think that team meetings aren’t necessary or that all team business can be conducted through email, but team meetings offer the opportunity for members to get to know each other and to collaborate whenever possible. It also gives you the chance to ask, “What do you think about this idea?” or “Do you have any thoughts why this project isn’t working?” Then you can sit back and listen to what people say. It might take a few meetings before they begin to contribute freely, but it will be worth it in terms of increasing the support and engagement of team members. You might be surprised at what you learn that helps you become a better manager.
- Meet individually with team members and ask them what type of assignments they prefer. Then, when you have a new project, try to include the people who are interested in this area. It isn’t always possible, but your team members will appreciate your effort.
- If you feel that you are being interrupted so often that you can’t get any work done, set aside specific times during the day or week when you are available to answer questions and talk with team members. Make sure you keep these office hours, and you may find that people respect your boundaries the rest of the time.
- If team members tell you they are feeling overworked, meet with them individually and have them explain their assignments to you. You can help them prioritize their assignments into high, medium, or low priorities. Then, meet with each person on a regular schedule to monitor progress.
- The next time you think of a project that you would like to pursue, consult your team members about it. If they get excited, they will offer their assistance and ideas, and you will be off and running. If they don’t like it, listen to what they have to say. You might still decide to undertake the project, but at least you’ll know what you are up against in terms of resistance.
Involving the people who will be part of a project in planning and collaboration increases the chances of completing projects on time, with good results, and with team members who are proud of their accomplishments. Also, regular collaboration enhances a team’s creativity and ability to innovate. Collaboration comes more naturally with time and practice.