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Hybrid working: skills for leadership
Hybrid working: skills for leadership

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3.5 How to lead collaborative teams

Up to this point, you have explored how well you currently collaborate and the conditions needed for collaboration. In this section, you will focus more closely on ways to support collaboration in your team as a leader.

When thinking about team collaboration and performance, it is useful to consider a sports team, say in football or basketball. Imagine the team working together to set things up so that one of their players can score. What led to the player scoring? How did they know where to be and what do to? The talent of the player who scores is important. But for that player to be in a position to score, the team had to have a shared vision that was understood by all, a collective strategy and trust in each other (Boitnott, 2015).

The following tips from McCarthy (2020) consolidate many of the key ideas covered in previous sections. To foster collaboration in your team:

  • let go of being the person who has all the answers – allow others to have input
  • actively listen to your team and make sure that you ask the right questions
  • work alongside your team to find out what they need – avoid a top-down approach
  • focus on building personal relationships across the team
  • establish trust in your leadership – lead by example; be honest, particularly about your mistakes, and stick to your commitments, treating colleagues equally and recognising achievements
  • embrace diversity in the team
  • learn to resolve conflict – conflicts should be expected to arise when a team is collaborating, as you are bringing together different ideas and perspectives to reach the best solutions; develop your mediation skills and ability to create compromise with empathy – your role here is crucial
  • learn how to make consensus decisions – make sure you get buy-in from your team for each decision, helping them work together towards the same goal.
(McCarthy, 2020)

Ossawa (2019) shares further practical examples of how you, as a hybrid leader, can support team collaboration. These centre on building team trust and improving communication. Ideas include:

  • Create shared understanding: You need to create a clear common language. Use simple, unambiguous language in your communications. Work as a team to create formalised task descriptions and ensure that they are understood by all – for example, have team members summarise their understanding of what their task involves before they start it.
  • Involve team members in discussions: Everyone in the team needs to have a voice, not just those who tend to be more vocal. Encourage everyone to contribute ideas. Good ideas can come from anywhere in the organisation, and that includes across all team members.
  • Keep team members up to date on the wider goals and mission: Involve team members and keep them informed about the overall mission and process, giving them an understanding, for example, of stakeholders’ interests or of organisational goals. Don’t have team members working on tasks with no idea of where their work fits into the bigger picture.
  • Don’t micromanage: Learn to let go. Allow team members space to work as a team and trust them to do their work.
  • Celebrate wins and share mistakes: Make sure you celebrate successes in the team. At the same time, be transparent about what is going well and what needs improvement. This will build trust in the team. Create safety for team members to share information about mistakes.
(Ossawa, 2019)

This last point is crucial. Collaboration depends on team members feeling comfortable sharing information about mistakes and things that are going wrong.

An illustration of where this did not happen is the case of United Airlines Flight 173 which crashed in 1979. The crash appears to have occurred partly, it seems, due to issues with a top-down management style. While deliberating over a relatively minor issue with the plane, more junior crew members felt unable to tell the captain about a fatal issue he was overlooking – namely that the plane was running out of fuel (Rogers, 2020).

To collaborate, your team needs to feel safe sharing their concerns before the issues they have identified become catastrophic.