Now that the holidays are almost coming to an end, companies need to deal with the yearly September struggles popping up. This is a period in which new joiners typically start, some projects and teams might change and it’s time for those sensitive topics of budget and business plans.
This situation often causes friction between employees, and it’s a prime example of one of the most prevalent issues we see at our clients: the collaboration between teams. This can be between international and local marketing departments, but just as easily between (marketing) teams within the same department. To avoid a constant power struggle, it is important to facilitate collaboration between both. But what can you do to achieve this?
Know what makes you tick (and what doesn’t)
Understanding team dynamics starts with understanding yourself. If you know how you react to your own emotions and impulses, you can start to look at the human interactions between teams and then frame those interactions within your specific company culture.
- First of all, take the time to get to really know yourself. Understanding which qualities you have and what your improvement areas are is crucial to better grasp how you are perceived by others in your environment. Also your interaction style with others is an important factor to understand. Do you like facts or are you more of a creative type in problem-solving? Maybe you’re great at supporting others or you add value by structuring a process? A deeper understanding of the possible interaction styles will help you know how to convince people of your cause, and what you should avoid at all costs.
- In order to get this knowledge you need feedback and coaching from someone you can trust. Many firms work with a mentor or buddy system that allows you to ask an honest opinion from someone who understands your day-to-day business. In a second stage, collect feedback from as many people as possible.
Embrace the differences in your team
You may have a lot of talented marketers in your company, this doesn’t guarantee that your marketing department will function at its optimal capacity. Without collaboration between the different teams there will simply be a lot of waste along the way. Research shows that happy team members will collaborate better and achieve superior results. In addition, positive emotions such as joy, interest and contentment broaden the thought-action repertoire of employees, which in turn becomes a source of positive energy and positive interactions.
Here’s how you can learn to pick up on the dysfunctions of a team by spotting common negative behaviors:
- Individual mindsets where individual goals and status overshadow the drive for collective success.
- The fear of holding others accountable as this might lead to uncomfortable situations.
- Team members trying to avoid conflict in order to preserve a state of artificial harmony. Conflicts can ruin relations, teams, projects and ultimately entire organizations. However, when handled correctly conflicts can also positively impact organizational dynamics and help avoid getting stuck in routines or even playing politics behind closed doors.
- A lack of trust because team members do not show their vulnerable side to each other. If you don’t really know or trust your colleague, it is hard to make commitments to this person.
From our experience at customers, feedback is the key to success when trying to boost collaboration. The more often people receive constructive formal and informal feedback, the more effective they become at their job. It allows them to create buy-in from their other team members when counting on each other’s commitments, and creates an open culture that stimulates collaboration. Logically, this will reflect on the performance of their teams. After all, feedback is the breakfast of champions.
Understand your company culture
Individuals and teams never operate in a vacuum. Don’t believe that your organization is a rational, purely cognitive or business-driven entity. As employees, we must realize that there are many forces at work in a company, and managers often act more on human emotion than rationality. Because of this the best idea will not always be the one that gets chosen. This can cause a great deal of frustration. What we often see is that the key to organizational politics is not so much having power, but having influencing power. You might be more effective in your goals by steering several people towards the desired decision than by trying to force your preference on one decision taker. On the other hand, you should never blindly accept status quo decisions without at least being able to challenge them.
We advise to consider these four elements which either aid or hamper collaboration in a company:
- Understand which growth phase your company is in. Companies that are expanding or merging typically face several crisis moments, ranging from leadership to ways of working and culture clashes. Acknowledging the growth phase your company is in, will allow you to pinpoint the major crisis that needs to be dealt with.
- The type of organization you are working in, with regards to formal organization and exercise of power, will also determine how to optimize collaboration between a central and local department. A self-steering team with an empowering manager will need very different guidance than a hierarchical team with a directive leadership style.
- Differences in cultures are also important to understand, as they can be a huge source of frustration. If an existing culture is not respected people tend to revolt or become unsatisfied. This is especially the case when companies merge or external employees start in a management function. Respecting and integrating cultures is therefore very valuable.
- Finally the company information flow is crucial for good collaboration. If management is transparent about the motivations behind certain decisions (both organizational and business related), it is much easier to accept and get behind them, even if there is initial resistance.
In the end it is primordial to find a right fit between the political styles of individuals and the organizations they are working in. If the discrepancies are too large, misunderstandings and conflicts will arise and collaborations between teams and departments will fail
From what we see at our clients, positive collaboration between teams and individuals is essential for the employee satisfaction and can make or break the company’s culture and productivity. Management should therefore not hesitate to considerably invest in this when needed (both via training resources and communication efforts), especially in times of change. But also employees should actively involve themselves in this matter by making sure that feedback moments and coaching are standard practice, in order for issues to be openly discussed.
Recognize any of these issues? The House of Marketing can help you identify and resolve collaboration blockers and can advise you on how to successfully tackle change within your organization. Let’s have a chat!
Lencioni Patrick, The Five Dysfunctions of a team (2002)
Inspired by Ken Blanchard
Buchanan, D.; Huczynski, A. (2010): Organizational behaviour. 7th edition, London: Prentice Hall, pp. 693-720.
Laloux, 2014, reinventing organisations