Guide #026: How to help your team become better at cross-team collaboration

Effective cross-team collaboration is built on a company culture that supports professional growth through networking and peer-to-peer learning.

Help team members build the confidence to learn how the company works

Help team members connect with others within the organization and overcome misconceptions around hierarchies, managerial boundaries or overstepping. Team members should be encouraged to be curious and understand the day-to-day operations of other teams, how they conduct stand-up meetings, what their goals are, etc. Let team members know they don’t have to be a manager to ask a manager how their team functions. Help team members build brand loyalty to the company by gaining the confidence to introduce themselves, ask questions, and make it known that they're interested in how the company works and what it stands for.

Help your organization create a safe space for collaboration

A safe space for collaboration is built on a company culture where individuals have the autonomy to connect with others with the intention of learning and growing together. Help to build a company culture that supports professional development, networking and the sharing of both tactical and soft skills. Additionally, keep an ear open for when other teams or individuals might be struggling with something. Offer assistance in areas where you are proficient or have navigated similar problems. Establish yourself and your team as a resource to others.

Use 15-minute coaching sessions to build relationships with other leaders and domain experts

Consider reaching out to individuals throughout your organization with knowledge and experience that you wish to acquire. Acknowledge that you admire their contributions and ask for 15 minutes of their time once or twice per week to master a specific skill or complete a task. Lean toward knowledge that can be applied in-between sessions so that you can implement feedback and adjust as you go. Individuals committed to helping each other learn and grow will more naturally figure out how to accomplish projects together.

Help team members establish ownership around the problems they’re trying to solve

When confronted with challenges, team members should be empowered to explore how they might solve problems on their own. Practice mirroring requests back to an individual and asking them what a solution would look like, or at minimum what a roadmap to a solution would look like. Exhausting options within a team's own capabilities or controls sets the stage for stronger collaboration with external resources, as it saves time and builds subject matter expertise about the problem.

Make sure the leaders of cross-team efforts are connected and communicating

Strong communication between leaders enables strong working relationships between their teams. Although cross-team collaboration doesn’t need to start at the leader level, it is important to make sure team leaders are connected early and made aware of the problems being solved. For teams to prioritize work requested by an outside team, share information with individuals they don’t typically work with, or attend meetings they aren’t usually invited to, they need buy-in and sometimes encouragement from their leaders. When starting to collaborate with another team, make sure your leaders are connected.

Develop a self-awareness for how your team prefers to work

Knowing how fast your team can deliver on different types of projects, how they prefer to communicate, what quality work looks like, etc. will help define clearer working relationships when collaborating with others. Having this sixth sense will help you diagnose problems and anticipate the types of projects that might prove challenging. Strive to know when your team will need your support and how best to remove blockers.

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