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Collaboration

How to encourage people to do what they say they’re going to do.

Trust is weaved into almost every aspect of our lives. I trusted that my car would get me to the airport this morning, that the pilots and crew would get me to Washington D.C., and that my cab driver would find my hotel. This all comes so naturally. So why does the role of trust in collaboration inside organizations remain such a mystery?

For more than 150 years, organizations have been organized in silos that breed internal competition for resources. The psychology of competing with your teammates for resources, in turn, encouraged an insidious way of working:  passive-aggressive behaviors where humans work side-by-side but work subtly against each other even though they are employed by the same firm.

Trust anchors every successful collaborative team.

We researched at Cisco the most important factors in creating trust on collaboration teams, and the single most important factor is revealing:  do people do what they say they are going to do?

As leaders, it is up to us to be overtly aggressive at vanquishing passive-aggressive behaviors and building real, human trust.  We have no choice in our hyper-connected world where change is constant and work is increasingly global, mobile and virtual. As distance and time condense, it stresses out the calmest of us as we scramble to meet deadlines while working with people that likely we’ve never met.

So what’s the key to building team trust?

“Replace uncertainty with clarity. Articulate the team’s purpose and establish up front what you expect from each member.”  The Collaboration Imperative

How to build a team charter

A team charter helps clarify a team’s purpose, role, shared goals and scope; a charter eliminates ambiguity of expectations. As leaders, we can make a team charter the focal point around which the team builds healthy collaboration habits.

It’s possible to move beyond your gut feel and hope trust develops on your team; it is possible to operationalize it. Trust is too important to, well, just trust that it’ll happen. To that end, we’ve found that a team charter is most effective when it is composed of five elements:

  1. Team purpose:  describes specific challenges, opportunities or tasks the team will address (and also expectations).
  2. Team role:  teams form for different reasons.  Know why your team exists – is it to align a group around an initiative?  Is it to execute a priority together?  What are the different roles of individuals on the team?  Read more about various team roles in Chapter 5 of “The Collaboration Imperative”.
  3. Shared goals:  most collaborative teams have people from different backgrounds, functions and even companies. Make sure despite your differences, you’re all chasing the same goals. These goals allow you to create a specific definition of what success looks like and allow you to map your goals to performance management
  4. Scope:  establish well-defined boundaries of what you hope to do. These “guardrails” allow you to say no to ‘scope creep’! This helps members determine their time commitment and helps the team as a whole stay on track.
  5. Establish ground rules. Put ground rules in place for team procedures and processes (including meeting logistics), how you use your time together, who makes final decisions, how to resolve conflict, and how respect and courtesy are paramount.

A team charter is a powerful means to enable trust-building on your collaboration teams.  Keep in mind that a team charter should be paired with a common vocabulary. Sweat the details of your team’s vocabulary. Ask if everyone on the team has the same definitions in their heads for the vocabulary you are using to articulate the charter.  Don’t let the definition of a word be the reason trust is derailed!

The management science is pretty clear here:  teams that trust each other outperform teams that don’t. Are you outperforming?

Ron

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2 Comments.


  1. Hi Ron,

    Interested in the next frontier for Collaboration ?. Check out collabnexgen.com. It is an initiative to enable collaborative-experiences with 3D-content. CollabNexGen is an enterprise solution focussed on companies such as real-estate, automobile etc that unlocks existing 3D-content and enhances sales & support. It's built on internet standards such as XMPP, X3D etc.

    Ramakrishna Tumuluri

       0 likes

  2. Hi Ron,

    Great post on trust. All my research shows that a lack of trust and a breakdown in communications (which is linked to trust) are they main reasons alliances, partnerships, customer relationships, and internal projects derail. Trust is hard to build but so quick and easy to lose. Once lost it can take an enormous amount of time and resources to recover from. Best to get trust established from the beginning of a relationship and work to keep it.

    The other thing I've learn't is that unclear roles and responsibilities is another reason collaboration fails. I endorse your thoughts around 'articulating the team’s purpose and establish up front what you expect from each member', it's a key ingredient to successful collaboration.

    Technology is enabling collaborative workers to really engage and share ideas and information - which helps teams across boundaries and between partners work together. However, the human element needs driving home to leaders because they still need a lot of help with this.

    Thanks for sharing.

       0 likes

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