“We need collaboration.” Just one of the reasons some organizations give when announcing their decision to bring everyone back to the office. In fact, it is the second most common concern about a hybrid workplace. The first concern is usually “We need to be together for our culture.” (I’ve dispelled that myth in this post.) Hybrid team collaboration is possible. If we are willing to think about it a bit more, make some adjustments, and engage the team in the solution.

Keys to Hybrid Team Collaboration

When the following are present, you are far more likely to create greater collaboration, regardless of where people are working.

A Clear Team Purpose

When the purpose and mission of the team are clear, relatable, and inspiring, people are far more likely to want to collaborate. After all, the purpose is worth it! Are you making sure people see the purpose and realize their role in reaching it?

The Expectation of Collaboration

When people recognize that being successful in their role means they must collaborate, they are more likely to do it. Otherwise, they are more likely to focus on their personal task list. Do people see collaboration as an important part of their job?

Solid Collaboration Skills

To effectively collaborate, there are some skills that are needed.

  • The ability to communicate.
  • The willingness to listen.
  • An open mind to consider alternatives.
  • Team problem solving skills.

This is just a short list – make the list for your team or organization. Do your people have the skills for hybrid team collaboration?

Technology to Support Collaboration

For hybrid team collaboration to happen, you need the right technology to support the communication and collaboration itself. That doesn’t necessarily mean rushing out to buy new tools. Make sure the team knows how to use the tools you already have before you invest in new ones. Think about what you need and whether your current tools can get you there with the right awareness and skills. People are far more willing to use a tool once they understand how. And yes, there are virtual whiteboards that can be nearly as effective as the one on the conference room wall. (Some virtual whiteboards actually have some advantages over the physical ones.) Are you encouraging people to use the proper technology and tools to support hybrid team collaboration?

Prescribed Processes for Collaboration Success

Sometimes people don’t collaborate because they don’t want to bother others. They don’t know how to make it happen when they can’t see if someone is busy.  There needs to be a clear process for reaching out to one another. Team-wide agreements about availability create a sense of cadence when it comes to communication and collaboration. Do you have agreements and processes for when and how you will collaborate?

Flexibility and the Willingness to Adapt

Maybe people need to let go of the belief that it is harder to collaborate when they aren’t face-to-face. It is different, but different doesn’t necessarily mean harder. Are you giving people the chance to figure it out together rather than lament their lack of co-location?

Use this list to analyze why your hybrid team might not be collaborating the way you wish. And use the questions at the end of each item in the list to spur action as needed.

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Kevin Eikenberry is a recognized world expert on leadership development and learning and is the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group. He has spent over 30 years helping organizations across North America, and leaders from around the world, on leadership, learning, teams and teamwork, communication and more.

Twice he has been named by Inc.com as one of the Top 100 Leadership and Management Experts in the World and 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference. The American Management Association named him a “Leaders to Watch” and he has been twice named as one of the World's Top 30 Leadership Professionals by Global Gurus. Top Sales World has named him a Top Sales & Marketing Influencer several times, and his blog has been named on many “best of” lists. LeadersHum has named him one of the 200 Biggest Voices in Leadership in 2023.

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