Collaboration is essential for successful teamwork, yet many leaders struggle to foster it within their teams. Leaders (just like other humans) can make mistakes that hinder collaboration and lead to project failures, unwittingly contributing to the lack of collaborative work practises themselves. Are you hampering your team’s collaborative progress? Here are the top 7 mistakes we see leaders make, along with practical solutions to help you overcome these challenges and build a high-performing team that achieves its goals.

1. Lack of communication and transparency

Effective communication is key to any successful collaboration. When team members don’t communicate effectively or openly, it leads to misunderstandings, communication silos, frustration, and, ultimately, failure to achieve goals. Transparency is also important to build trust among team members. Without transparency, team members may feel like they are being kept in the dark, leading to suspicion and a lack of commitment to the team’s objectives. Amy Edmondson, renowned author of ‘Teaming’ emphasises the importance of psychological safety in teams. Creating an environment where team members feel safe to speak up and share their ideas without fear of judgement or negative consequences makes a team leader that everyone wants to work for.

Suggestions to counteract a lack of communication and transparency

Clarify which communication tools to use for which purpose: Specific channels on a message service like Slack or Microsoft Teams can keep communication transparent across teams that need asynchronous communication. We have spoken about this before and there’s a link to a cheat sheet of what tools to use when in this post. Being able to connect quickly and informally allows team members to message, share files and documents, and track progress.

Schedule regular check-ins with team members to discuss ongoing projects and goals. When the phases of the project shift, revisit the purpose of the check-in conversations and adjust. Allow space for issues or concerns to be raised, and keep the conversation on the task. Don’t let it get mean.

Use visual aids: Visual aids such as charts, graphs, and diagrams can help team members understand complex information more easily. I have a go to diagram for every project (it’s what we call a systems overview) and it reminds me what systems are connected to our project. Consider using visual aids to communicate project timelines, milestones, and goals to ensure everyone is on the same page.

2. Not fostering a culture of trust and respect among team members

Trust and respect are foundational to successful collaboration. Without these, team members may feel unsupported and unappreciated, leading to resentment and a lack of commitment to the team’s objectives. Patrick Lencioni discusses the importance of building a cohesive team where team members are encouraged to share their vulnerabilities and work towards common goals. When team members trust and respect each other, they are more likely to communicate effectively and work collaboratively to achieve success.

Suggestions to counter

Host a team-building event: A fun team-building event can help break down communication barriers and build trust among team members; a fun activity, cooking class, or mini golf game that encourages team members to bond that’s not specific to the work at hand builds rapport. It doesn’t have to be a big event a small ritual like a morning cuppa together or a quick fun question at the end of a meeting also builds trust. Research has shown that the more people get to know one another more likely they are to build trust and rapport.

Encourage open conversations: Encourage team members to provide open and honest feedback on projects and processes. This will help identify any communication or transparency issues early on and allow you to address them before they become bigger problems.

3. Failure to clearly define goals and roles within the team 

It is essential to define clear goals and roles for each team member to ensure everyone is working towards a common objective. When team members are unclear about their roles, they may step on each other’s toes or feel like they are not contributing to the team’s success. Amy Edmondson recommends setting clear goals and creating a shared understanding of the team’s objectives to build a sense of purpose and direction for the team.

Suggestions to counter a lack of goals and roles

Establish a purpose:

Establishing a purpose is key for a project; the project is going nowhere fast without a clear purpose. Defining the objectives of the project and setting specific goals that the project is intended to meet is part of the initiating phase of project preparation. Clarifying for each team member what it is that they bring that helps us work towards these objectives is part of creating a compelling invitation to participate in the project.

Be clear about roles responsibilities and relationship management: Roles, responsibilities and relationships need to be crafted for each project before the first kick-off meeting. But roles, responsibilities and relationships shift and change through the project lifecycle, so they need to be revisited at key points along the way. We have written about that here, and there’s a download template in that blog too.

4. Micromanaging instead of allowing people to take ownership of their work

Micromanaging can be detrimental to team collaboration as it undermines team members’ ability to take ownership of their work and make decisions. This can lead to frustration and a lack of engagement among team members. Patrick Lencioni, the author of 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, emphasises the importance of empowering team members to take ownership of their work and make decisions. When team members feel trusted and empowered, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to the team’s objectives.

Suggestions to counter micromanagement

If you are a micromanager (or a control freak) you might be the last person in the room to know it. Assuming that you have some awareness that these tendencies exist, here are some suggestions for moving in the direction of greater empowerment for your team:

Delegate: Start by delegating tasks and responsibilities to team members. This will allow them to take ownership of their work and develop their skills.

Set clear expectations: Clearly communicate your expectations for each task and project. This will help team members understand what is expected of them and give them the freedom to work independently.

Provide support: Offer support and resources to help team members succeed. This can include training, access to tools and technology, and mentorship.

Encourage feedback: Create an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing feedback and ideas. This will help you understand their perspectives and improve your leadership style. [LINK to writing about feedback]

5. Ignoring feedback and not seeking input from team members

Feedback is essential to improving collaboration and achieving success. When team members are not given the opportunity to provide feedback or their feedback is ignored, it can lead to frustration and disengagement. Edmondson recommends creating a culture where feedback is encouraged and valued to foster a growth mindset within the team.

Note on feedback* If feedback feels too random and confontational for you then consider the idea of feed ‘forward’ – it’s more specific and invites suggestions on an areas that a person is specifically looking to improve. Link here for a description of the process.

Making progress on feedback that is ignored 

We like to believe the best of people, so we approach a lack of action around feedback that has been shared with practical suggestions with the assumption that the intent is to do something useful with the feedback.

Schedule dedicated times for it: Set aside specific times during the week or month to both listen to and review feedback. This way, you can give feedback the attention it deserves without feeling overwhelmed. Smaller, regular adjustments can be more effective ways of incorporating feedback into your flow. If you create a cycle of asking for feedback, then returning to previous topics to check in on progress is less awkward.

Prioritise the feedback: Review and reflect on the feedback you receive. Not all of it will strike a chord or be feasible to act on right away. Focus on the most important and actionable areas first.

Consider a survey: Consider using technology to streamline the feedback processes. Any collaborative tool that allows you to track feedback is helpful, as is a survey tool that can collect feedback from multiple team members at once.

6. Not providing sufficient resources or support to collaborate effectively

Collaboration requires resources and support to be successful. When team members do not have the necessary resources or support, they may feel overwhelmed, leading to burnout and disengagement. Patrick Lencioni emphasises the importance of providing team members with the resources and support they need to be successful. This includes providing clear expectations, training, and ongoing support to help team members collaborate effectively.

How can a leader support and provide the right resources for their team to build collaboration skills?

Offer training and development opportunities: Provide training and working sessions to teach and encourage the necessary skills and strategies for effective collaboration.

Invest in collaboration tools and ensure that everyone who needs to has access: Invest in collaboration tools and software that can help team members work together more effectively, such as project management software or team communication apps. Ensure that the onboarding process includes briefing new team members on which tools to use and when.

Encourage experimentation: Encourage team members to experiment with new approaches and strategies for collaboration. This can help them discover what works best for them and their team. Lead by example experiment with something yourself!

Recognise and reward collaboration: Recognise and reward team members who demonstrate collaboration skills and encourage them to share their experiences with others. This can create a culture of collaboration and motivate others to develop their skills.

7. Not addressing conflict in a timely constructive manner

Conflict is inevitable in any team; the process of collaborating to get a project delivered is messy and often has many mis-steps. However, when conflicts or misunderstandings are not addressed promptly and constructively, they can escalate and lead to more significant problems. Edmondson recommends working to develop a culture where conflicts are viewed as opportunities for growth and learning. This includes providing training and support for conflict resolution and creating a safe environment where team members can voice their concerns without fear of negative consequences.

Suggestions to counter not addressing conflicts and misunderstandings

Establish clear guidelines and processes: Having this conversation before you’re in a conflict situation helps set expectations that there will be conflict. That it can be constructive, and that there are clear guidelines and processes for addressing conflicts or misunderstandings within the team.

Address conflicts early: As with illness, getting in early allows you to address the problem while it’s still a small niggle and hasn’t turned into a full-blown escalation of arms. Encourage team members to address conflicts or misunderstandings as soon as they arise rather than letting them fester and escalate. Encourage a culture of constructive feedback and problem-solving and provide the support and resources needed to facilitate this process.

Lead by example: As a leader, model the behaviour you want to see in your team. Demonstrate the importance of addressing conflicts and misunderstandings constructively, and encourage team members to do the same.

Team collaboration is crucial for the success of any project or organisation. Avoiding these seven common mistakes in team collaboration will help you and your team work together more effectively and efficiently. By adopting better communication practices, establishing clear goals and roles, promoting trust and transparency, leveraging technology, prioritising feedback and inclusion, and addressing conflict early on, you can take your team collaboration skills to the next level and achieve better results.

At 6R Retail, we understand the challenges that businesses face when it comes to system implementation and process improvement. We know that every organisation has unique needs and goals, which is why we take a customised approach to every project we work on.

With our expertise in various technologies, including ERP, PLM, e-commerce platforms, and marketing technology, we are equipped to handle any project and help you achieve your desired outcomes. We work with retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers of all sizes to implement systems and improve business processes, ensuring that our clients are able to run their operations more efficiently and effectively.

Our team of project managers specialise in business improvement strategy and leading change within organisations. We understand that change can be difficult, which is why we work closely with our clients to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the transition is as smooth as possible.

Our goal is to help our clients achieve their strategic objectives through effective change management and vendor management. We know that success is not just about implementing systems; it’s about getting everyone on board and ensuring that the systems work for the organisation as a whole.

If you’re looking for a partner to help you improve your business processes and achieve your goals, look no further than 6R Retail. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you.

Featured Image: Matt Ridley