By Lisa Steingold


Every leader knows that collaboration is the key to success in any business. But collaboration doesn’t just mean working together; it means harnessing the power of the sum of the parts. It’s this alchemy that produces increased productivity, more significant innovation, and problem-solving ability.

“No one can whistle a symphony; it takes a whole orchestra to play it” – Halford E. Luccock


Here are five ways to create a collaborative culture as a leader.

1.   Embrace knowledge sharing and transparency as key values

“Knowledge Sharing is more broadly defined as the exchange of information and know-how to help others and to collaborate with others to solve problems, develop new ideas, or implement policies or procedures.” (Whale)


Sounds great but how? To answer this, let’s take a look at an initiative Google conducted in 2012, called Project Aristotle. They wanted to understand “Why the whole is greater than the sum of its parts for some teams?” They looked at 180 teams all over the company to understand why specific teams consistently outperformed others.

It wasn’t due to having smarter team members but rather due to having psychological safety within a group. Team members were able to share knowledge but also share their challenges without fear of judgment or persecution in teams with physiological safety. In other words, everything was transparent.

Transparency means challenges become opportunities for learning and growth which further spur growth rather than stumbling blocks to growth.


2.   Systemize to create a collaborative culture

The first step to creating a collaborative culture is systemizing collaboration. Systemization is the process of creating processes and habits that make things more efficient. It will result in teams working together in ways that are efficient and effective.

You can do this by ensuring certain habits within the team such as daily stand-ups or weekly meetings but also by tracking team progress as opposed to purely individual progress.

Technology has made it easier than ever to systemize sharing information and ideas, but many organizations still struggle with creating an environment where collaboration is at the core. It’s important to recognize that technology doesn’t necessarily replace one of one communication but rather enhances it.

Having the right tools in place such as:

  • Collaboration software like Slack or Asana
  • Knowledge sharing and training software like Whale
  • Project management software like Trello, Basecamp, or JIRA,

will go a long way to habit-forming communication and making it easier to collaborate.

3.   Develop relationships and people, not only output

When you’re starting out as a leader, it can be tempting to focus on tasks and results. But that’s not how you develop a successful team culture: instead, focus on building relationships with the people who work together. This can take the form of offering feedback or having one-on-one meetings or team meetings with team members in a rhythm that works for everyone.

Showing interest and connecting with team members will help foster trust and mutual understanding among all parties involved.

When team members feel valued, they are more likely to perform. Creating relationships amongst team members is more likely to deliver results than purely incentivizing performance.

4.   Meet and connect informally

Research by HBR shows that new teams, particularly those with a high proportion of members who were strangers at the time of formation, find it more difficult to collaborate than those with established relationships.

Does this mean only create teams from people with a legacy or who’ve previously worked together? No, but it does mean that connecting people within a team is essential outside of the task at hand.

This is why so many companies are investing in off-site team days and events. However, even simple things, such as a team coffee to welcome a new team member, even if it is via an online meeting, will go a long way to connecting team members.

5.   Onboard new team members in a collaborative manner

A study found that creating a collaborative culture is key to engagement and high performance and collaboration should be a value that should be entrenched from day one with new teams through onboarding.

  • Is documentation and information readily shared and available?
  • Do team members make an effort to connect?
  • Are new team members given a handbook that reflect the values of the team and organization?
  • Are new team members given access to technology prior to or on their first day?
  • Are new team members included in tasks and trained accordingly?

Start right and watch teams thrive!


For collaboration to really take hold as an organizational value, leaders must become collaborative role models. Team members pay attention not to what leaders say but how they themselves act within their respective teams.


About the author

Lisa Steingold is a human behavior enthusiast and head of content for Whale – a knowledge-sharing and training platform. Having researched human behavior for over 2 decades, she’s the author of 4 books and is obsessed with helping teams unlock the next level of growth.

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