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4 collaboration strategies to unlock your team’s potential
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4 collaboration strategies to unlock your team’s potential

Want all of the teamwork and none of the burnout? Check out four in-depth collaboration strategies to get you started.

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The Corinthian hero Bellerophon was sent on a seemingly-impossible mission to defeat the fearsome, fire-breathing Chimera.* He succeeded by working together with his winged horse, Pegasus: Together, they flew above the monster, defeating it with fiery arrows.  

While vanquishing ancient mythical creatures may not be in your team’s KPIs, they do need to work together to meet their goals and drive business results—without burning out. 

Collaborative teams perform better, but teamwork doesn’t always come naturally. It’s not easy to work together when you don’t have enough visibility, clear communication, and empathy between departments and team members.

To make joint working more effective and help your people build deeper relationships, you need to prioritize teamwork and take a strategic approach to fostering greater team cohesion. Basically, approach collaboration as you would any other business objective. 

In this article, you’ll learn four collaboration strategies that let you unlock team innovation and how implementing them can transform your business.

Help your people soar to new heights together. 
Switchboard’s collaborative digital workspace makes it easy to communicate, brainstorm, and work together in real-time and async. 
Learn more

4 collaboration strategies to unlock team innovation

Successful collaboration in the workplace requires planning, coordination, and communication; it won’t just happen by itself. 

To create a work environment where teamwork thrives, you need a framework that lets you create a shared vision, align expectations, and foster trust. These strategies will help you do just that. Let’s take a look. 

1. Set clear shared goals and expectations

Being clear on your company goals and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) helps your people be more productive and exceed customer expectations. 

One study found that 85% of people who know what they’re working toward are more productive than those who don’t. Asana’s 2023 Anatomy of Work report also reported that 87% of workers at companies with clear, connected goals say they’re better prepared to meet customer demands, more than double those who lack those goals or clarity.  

For Andrea Galvez, Vice President and Client Success & Membership at Financial Health Network, the best way to create a culture that supports teamwork is through setting shared goals. “The key to this,” she says, “is that the team actually comes together and collaborates on what the goals are. So they see the organizational goals and then they set the numbers. Of course, as a leader, you have to make sure they’re the right numbers, but that creates a commitment across the set of stakeholders.”

Quantifiable and well-documented goals are also way easier to track, which means you can measure your progress, celebrate your achievements, and iterate. Andrea advises consistently sharing updates on how the team is working toward their goals, identifying areas for improvement early on, and creating ways the team can support each other. This makes working together easier and “takes the ‘I mindset’ away from the team.” 

2. Use the right tools 

Using the right internal collaboration tools can make a big difference when you work with others. Think about it: if you have a clear way to communicate, share files, assign tasks, and track progress, you can save time and energy, and focus on what matters most. 

Use tools that let your team connect and work together during every stage of the workflow—from ideation and brainstorming to status update meetings and delivery. Collaboration tools for project management, like Trello and Dropbox, let you stay on top of deliverables and share files better. 

But remember, more apps don’t mean better teamwork: It can actually be the opposite. Asana’s research shows that the more apps you and your people have to toggle between, the more time they waste and the more difficult it is to actually get things done together. 

“Work about work,” or hours spent on duplicated work, unnecessary meetings, and juggling too many apps, takes up to 58% of people’s work day. Compared to that, skilled work takes up 33% and strategic work only 9%. 

By using fewer—but better—tools, you can save up to five hours each week per person.

To do this, find a tool that integrates all your software into a single platform. For example, Switchboard’s digital collaboration workspace brings all your browser-based apps together in one place, no integrations needed. 

Its persistent rooms also save your work so team members always know where to find the files, documents, and information they need, even between calls. Finally, Switchboard’s interactive, multiplayer rooms let everyone work together on browsers, apps, and media without having to share their screen or watch one person present.

Switchboard design room with four participants
Switchboard helps your team work together and share ideas by bringing all their favorite tools together in a virtual workspace. Source: Switchboard 

3. Build collaboration into your day-to-day

Collaboration isn’t just something that happens every once in a while during team-building activities or when someone has an idea. It's a way of working that involves sharing, learning, and creating together. 

When you make collaboration part of your company culture, it sets the stage for joint working and means people work together more intentionally. 

Let’s take a look at how you can do that.

1. Foster a sense of psychological safety

Psychological safety is the feeling of being able to express yourself freely and honestly without fear of negative consequences. It allows people to contribute ideas, questions, and feedback, without worrying about being judged, rejected, or punished. 

When people feel psychologically safe, they’re more likely to have healthier group dynamics and be creative, innovative, and productive. They also tend to trust and support each other, which leads to better teamwork and performance.

To create a psychologically safe environment, start with your company culture and values. Set and model ones that help your people feel heard and comfortable. For example, kindness, respect, transparency, empathy, and accountability. 

Making in-person or virtual collaboration part of your day-to-day and creating psychological safety is an ongoing process. Ashley Russo, Founder and President of ASR Media, recommends reinforcing your values often. “Be clear on your company mission and vision statements and read them at the beginning of every [all-hands] meeting,” she says. “It’s a gentle reminder of what your business stands for and expects from the team.” 

2. Practice and encourage active listening 

Active listening is a skill that involves giving the other person your full attention and listening with interest and empathy. It’s not just about hearing the words, but also mirroring the speaker’s language, summarizing, and asking open-ended questions to understand the emotions and intentions behind them. This technique can help your people work together better by:

  • Reducing misunderstandings and conflicts 
  • Building trust and rapport between team members 
  • Encouraging openness and honesty
  • Improving their problem-solving skills

Make it a habit to listen actively in all kinds of situations, whether it's informal 1:1s, brainstorming sessions, or client presentations. For example, if a team member says you should invest in developing a mobile app for your customers, you could ask “Can you elaborate on the potential benefits you see in having an app? What specific features or functions do you think would be valuable to our customers?”

On Ashley’s team, every question or comment is important. “Never criticize an idea,” she says. “Find the value in it and redirect the conversation as needed. Sometimes, it takes many small ideas woven together to find the final solution and every person should feel valued for their contribution.”

3. Foster a sense of ownership, independence, and accountability

When people feel a sense of ownership and autonomy over their projects, they’re more likely to take the initiative and engage in discussions and decision-making processes. When everyone’s actively invested, it’s easier to take responsibility for their assigned roles, demonstrate a proactive attitude, and rely on each other to work towards a common goal. 

For example, a social media manager who feels empowered to make decisions can proactively identify areas for improvement and propose a creative solution to increase engagement rates on social media. They don’t have to wait for their team leader to approve every decision. They also understand their role and impact, can take responsibility for their part in the team’s success, and learn from their mistakes.

For Ashley, one way to foster ownership is to allow your teams to meet without you. “Create small groups who have ownership of various areas,” she says. “Challenge them to meet and come up with two solutions to run by you or their manager and go from there. They’ll own the decisions 100% if they participate in finding the solutions.”

You can also set extreme ownership as a company value to encourage people to be resourceful, committed, proactive, and accountable. 

See here for more benefits of collaborative projects.

4. Recognize and celebrate collaborative achievements

Rewarding your people for their joint work or wins, big or small, inspires them to continue collaborative work. Traditionally, leaders incentivize competition and, while it can be healthy in small doses, encouraging your people to join forces and focus on shared goals is better for your company’s long-term growth and employee satisfaction.

You can do this by:

  • Building a “shoutouts” segment into your monthly all-hands meetings. This lets your people know that you recognize and value great teamwork. You can also encourage people to reach out to you and nominate someone who has really knocked it out of the collaboration park.
  • Assess people on collaboration during employee reviews. This incentivizes team members to connect and work together as best they can, leading to collaboration and innovation becoming part of your company's DNA. Encourage your managers to ask their report’s peers for feedback to make sure the assessment is fair. 
  • Create a dedicated channel on your internal communication tool. For example, on Slack, you can build a company-wide channel called “wins” or “shoutouts” and pat each other on the back for a job well done.
A screenshot of a Slack channel
Celebrating teamwork motivates your people to keep doing great things together. Source: Flying Cat Marketing

What your workplace will look like after applying these strategies 

Now that you know the strategies you need to implement, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of collaboration for both your company and your people.

1. Increased productivity and efficiency

Working together as a team lets you focus on your strengths and specialisms—while others do the same. This way, you can get more done in less time and with better results. Sharing information and knowledge with others also lets you get new perspectives and insights, which can spark creativity and help you find better solutions. 

On top of that, joint working avoids duplicating work. For example, imagine your team of designers needs to create a new website. If each designer works independently, unaware of what the other person is doing, they might end up creating very similar website layouts. But if they come together for a collaborative design review, they can share their progress and ideas, spot any overlap, and come up with better results in less time. 

“Group collaboration can bring in new ideas, perspectives, and approaches to solving problems. It allows the team to build upon one another to create an end result better than the sum of its parts.” – Alex Melone and Andrei Marin, co-founders of CodeCrew
Pro tip: When you use Switchboard for creative and design reviews, you can open different multiplayer browsers and apps side-by-side and work together without sharing your screens. You can also add and keep any brand guidelines and design briefs to the room for future reference. The persistent rooms save your progress, whether someone is in the room or not, so you can always pick up where you left off next time. 
A screenshot of a Switchboard room with four team members and two documents open.
Switchboard lets you make persistent, dedicated rooms for projects so the entire team can work together more productively. Source: Switchboard

2. Stronger, more connected teams 

Creating a culture of joint working allows team members to get together more often, get to know each other, and build stronger relationships. When people care about their colleagues on a deeper level, they feel more connected to each other and the company. And when they feel close, they’re more likely to work together effectively.

For example, a marketing manager and account executive who brainstorm together at least once a week and regularly message each other on Slack will be a stronger duo than others who only interact during the monthly all-hands meetings. 

3. Happier, more engaged and satisfied employees 

Asana’s 2023 Anatomy of Work report found that 92% of workers at highly collaborative companies find meaning in their work, compared to only 50% of employees in organizations that struggle with teamwork. 

That’s because effective collaboration helps your teams pool their resources and work together to tackle challenges. This means they’ll have more time and energy to focus on what matters to both them and the organization. 

Teamwork also promotes open communication and creates a culture where ideas, questions, and constructive feedback are encouraged. This inclusive atmosphere fosters a sense of community and psychological safety, where your people feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and taking risks. The outcome is an engaged and motivated team that feels connected, supported, and empowered.

“Collaboration makes room for everyone to participate in the conversation and have various views and ideas considered. Teams are more [solution-focused] and invested in the outcomes when they have a voice.” – Ashley Russo, Founder and President of ASR Media Productions

4. Greater adaptability to change

Seventy-nine percent of Asana’s respondents said their collaborative organizations are well-prepared to face challenges head-on and respond to change. This is over four times higher than teams who don’t work together as closely.

When your people work together across teams, departments, and locations, they can share their diverse perspectives and experiences and come up with better solutions for complex problems. 

Collaborative environments also encourage employees to learn from each other and share knowledge, building a mindset of continuous learning. And with your people always investing in their personal and professional development, you’ll have a workforce that gets stronger, more experienced, and more knowledgeable by the day. 

By leveraging your growing, collective intelligence and creativity, you can adapt to change faster. 

For example, let’s say you run a small content marketing startup. If your content writers and editors are always learning more about Artificial Intelligence and sharing their findings with each other, they’ll be far better prepared to face the future of work in their changing industry.

A screenshot of a company’s Slack channel, with team members discussing AI.
Encouraging your team members to learn together and exchange knowledge helps you build stronger, more resilient teams.

Collaboration strategies: Fly high on the wings of teamwork 

When the ancient Greek hero Bellerophon was tasked with defeating the mythical Chimera, he knew he couldn’t do it alone. He needed the help of his winged horse, Pegasus. With his trusty steed at his side, Bellerophon had the advantage of flight and could evade the fiery breath of the Chimera while they worked on weakening it from the air.

Your teams and Bellerophon have one thing in common: The success of your mission depends on your ability to work together. For that to happen, you need clear communication, empathy, and visibility between departments and team members, which isn’t always easy to achieve. 

To get people working together more efficiently, and drive business results without causing burnout, you need to adopt collaboration strategies and approach team cohesion as a business objective like any other. 

To foster joint working in your company, set clear goals and expectations; build collaboration into your day-to-day work; practicing and encouraging active listening; and recognize and celebrate joint achievements and collaborative team members. 

Lastly, make sure to give your people the right tools so they can work together easily and productively. Switchboard acts as a collaborative workspace where your people can find each other, save and access information, work on browser-based apps, documents, and files, and get more done together in real time or async—making them a legendary, unbeatable team. 

Help your people soar to new heights together. 
Switchboard’s collaborative digital workspace makes it easy to communicate, brainstorm, and work together in real-time and async.  
Learn more

Frequently asked questions about collaboration strategies

1. What is the most important thing to do to build collaboration?

Some of the most important things to do when building collaboration include:

  1. Setting clear shared goals and expectations
  2. Using the right collaboration tools 
  3. Making collaboration part of your day-to-day
  4. Recognizing and celebrating collaborative achievements

2. What is the difference between collaboration and cooperation?

Collaboration means working together towards a common goal by actively integrating ideas, perspectives, and skills from different individuals or teams. It fosters deep engagement and open dialogue and emphasizes relationship building and creating an environment of trust and mutual support. 

Cooperation, on the other hand, refers to individuals working together to meet their own personal goals. It involves less intensive interaction and a narrower focus on individual tasks or responsibilities.

Stop, collaborate, and listen

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Help your people soar to new heights together.

Switchboard’s collaborative digital workspace makes it easy to communicate, brainstorm, and work together in real-time and async.