“Competition” in a business creates an impression of a culture where there are only winners and losers. The problem in such an environment is that the winners tend to be the same people over and over again. They begin to see themselves not just as assets, but as valuable stars.
Winners and Losers
Even on a professional sports team, that doesn’t really work. At least, only up to a point. The star player needs the respect and support of his teammates, or he’s nothing.
Of course, business isn’t sports. But even there, people who work hard without recognition get discouraged and disengaged. Their performance suffers. In the end, they leave, and you’re left with the added expense and reduced revenue that comes with recruiting and training new employees.
"Collaboration" in a company means creating arrangements to realize a common objective. In collaborative environments, the customer is the focus. Meeting needs and solving problems comes from mutual support and effective communication.
In realizing sustainable margins, all employees understand that providing the best product and the best services, as efficiently as possible, is the solution in the long run. You need shared goals, but you also need diverse opinions.
Even small business that have 10 or less employees can profit from collaboration. The capacity to assist another’s efforts to ensure phases of production are completed is how a collaborative environment works. Management must set and communicate priorities, cross-train employees, and avoid setting unrealistic deadlines. Teamwork is something that leaders must support and encourage if it is to exist at all.
Forming alliances should be part of the company culture. Small businesses can embrace this outside the physical environment by trying to build better relationships with their customers and the supply chain. Negotiation, compromise, and mutual support ensures that all stakeholders benefit when business operations become stressful.
It’s likely that there will always be at least one person that doesn’t want to be part of a team. They may be antisocial, feel that certain work is beneath them, or remain focused on advancing their own future, not the company’s. Where collaboration is expected, management should ask whether such people should be present at all, regardless of much they achieve personally.
There can be many kinds of teams and work groups that are formed to meet organizational needs. Few of them function at peak levels, even when there is a history of working together. Unfortunately, not all teams that are put together will embrace the concept of collaboration. And sincere cooperation can’t be forced on people.
But it can be taught. Companies who find teamwork elusive on important projects may opt for solutions that assist team members. The right mindset and guidance helps employees to overcome differences and achieve cohesion as a team. Teams and their leaders benefit by embracing challenges and formulating effective strategies that work, regardless of who they are as individuals.
Areas of training focus typically include communication, stimulating creativity, efficient use of resources, overcoming conflict, team building skills and adapting to change. All of these things help to ensure that everyone on the team is aligned with the common goal. Clear and mutual understanding on the steps to take, and a sense of responsibility in the outcome, help collaboration come more easily.
You need to be the kind of leader who nurtures an environment where teams, not individuals, can grow. Effective leaders know how to engage and satisfy any employee, not just the one who happens to have the highest output. Incentives and ambition are important—but they should apply to teams, even an entire organization, and not just to a few top performers.