The coronavirus pandemic has taught us valuable lessons about how to collaborate, says Simone Fenton-Jarvis.
Regardless of setting, ineffective collaboration happens when groups of people who don’t get along or have conflicting styles gather without a common goal. During effective collaboration, however, you can feel the flow.
It depends on:
- Active listening;
- Contrasting and diverging opinions;
- Conflict management;
- EQ; and
- An atmosphere of creativity.
Fast-forward to a global pandemic
US professor, author and podcaster Brenè Brown says: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” She’s right.
Zoom grew from 10 million daily participants pre-pandemic to more than 200 million in March, and Gartner predicts the videoconferencing market will grow by 24.3 per cent this year.
We struggled to separate home and work; debated whether to turn on cameras, using backgrounds and battling with outfits. We didn’t miss the commute and laughed at the ‘Zoom-bombing’ from dogs, children and partners.
The pandemic has reminded us how connected and vulnerable we are. We’ve felt empathy not only for those home-schooling or living alone, but for everybody.
Virtual collaboration has become easier, our work styles have adapted, and we’ve found the right technology platforms. Team members know each other better through morning huddles, virtual coffees and quizzes, and more casual chats. We’ve learnt how to listen and respect everybody’s opportunity to be heard.
Nevertheless, many are eager to return to the office (for some of the time anyway) for face-to-face connection. So regardless of where we are, we can all collaborate better.
- Be clear
Create guidelines for communication, decision-making, conflict resolution, and meeting protocol. Goals, priorities, responsibilities, and accountability should be outlined.
- Build relationships
Establish rapport and empathy through regular video calls and virtual team-building rituals. Take a few minutes at the beginning or end of a meeting for ‘small talk’, so that the team can build or deepen personal relationships.
- Be seen
Encourage the use of cameras; eye contact and gestures allow people to trust, speak, engage and listen. Occasionally, turn off your own self-view to reduce fatigue.
- Hear and be heard
Actively listen and wait until you’re sure the person speaking is finished before you start to speak. Watch faces to check whether anyone else looks like they’re about to speak. In larger meetings, look to use functionality such as ‘raise hand’. Control the size of meetings to assist.
- Protect your headspace
Build in breaks and be respectful of other people’s breaks. There is a rise of ‘agile guilt’; we need to feel comfortable being away from the screen to improve boundaries and recharge.
- Choose human-centric technology
Ensure that the implementation, experience and adoption of technology enables people to truly connect and collaborate.
- Favour variety
Meet face to face some of the time so colleagues can connect, create trust and build company culture. Could a video call be an email, a phone call or instant message? Avoid message format fatigue.
Over the coming months, we must take our learnings from 2020 to find a work style aligned with our newly discovered priorities, desires and expectations. We have shown we can build and maintain relationships and effectively collaborate from anywhere. The genie is out of the bottle; we have an opportunity to make a wish, which could be to press reset and start again.
Simone Fenton-Jarvis is workplace services consultancy director at Ricoh