How many times have you fallen victim to broken tools and processes simply because that is just the way it is? Even worse, how many times has cross-functional collaboration failed, and you’ve been blindsided by changes?
Neither of these situations is a great place to be in, and even though conflict might scare us, the truth is that it is the only way to make a positive impact in our organizations. That is why we want to talk about collaboration strategy, specifically as it relates to introducing new ideas.
The time for growth is yesterday, today, and tomorrow. This article will give you the pep talk you need to challenge the status quo and bring your team together on solutions that matter.
You will also learn:
Common roadblocks that stop ideas from moving forward
Tips on how to get buy-in
How to collaborate with your team effectively
From idea to implementation, steps to take to ensure the process runs smoother (Ding! Ding! Collaboration is key!)
They say it is wise to listen to your new hires because they will have a valuable perspective. They will likely have an opinion on existing systems and insights about the effectiveness of your collaboration strategy.
But why is that?
Often, dealing with what isn’t working feels like a “tomorrow” problem. Tunnel vision is extremely common, and new voices are so incredibly valuable. With their enthusiastic optimism, your newest team members will likely wonder why things are operating at half their potential, and they even may reinvigorate you to do something about it. But we want you to have the energy for ideas no matter how long you’ve been with your company.
Let’s get real. While you are pushing off vetting new tools and reworking your existing processes, you are wasting valuable time with bandaids. You need a solution with legs that will bring your organization to the next level. And, it isn’t just time you need you to make it happen, it is effective collaboration.
Whether you are a decision maker or a decision influencer, we want to help you rally around solutions that will make a difference, present them with confidence, and drive growth for your organization.
As we like to say, let’s dive in.
Common roadblocks to collaboration
If you are lucky enough to have an ambitious few fired up about change, you may notice that eventually, enthusiasm weans. More often than not, it is the attitude about trying something new that can stop a project from moving forward.
How many times are bright ideas met with fierce resistance?
“We tried that.”
“Sounds great, but we can’t get everyone on board.”
“Good luck with that.”
We’ve heard this from project managers to directors, caught in the frustration of stacked miscommunications or concern about buy-in on their ideas. The lack of energy towards trying something new is likely because it can cause friction, which doesn’t lead to solutions and instead fuels conflict. We know if you stay in this place for too long, you risk losing out on opportunities. It is also a cancerous attitude that you never want to hang around for too long.
Your work culture depends on effective collaboration. Your work environment should be a place where everyone is comfortable with presenting new ideas. It should be a place where introducing better tools and processes is encouraged. New ideas should create excitement for your team and be a part of your everyday workflow.
It would be impossible to outline how to combat every hurdle you may encounter when you try to implement something new. We know that communication failures are sometimes uniquely personal to specific teams/individuals.
We want to focus on how to do it right.
It is normal for ideas to get pushed through to the end stages and fall apart; it happens. There are perfectly reasonable causes for this, and the point of this article isn’t to ensure you get your way. Instead, we want to help you properly vet the tools/solutions that are on the table and present them to your team in a way that gives your idea its’ best foot forward.
Effective communication fosters change when information is shared with clarity and shared at the right time. This doesn’t mean it will always result in acceptance, but it has a better chance of moving forward. Good ideas presented poorly will fail. Never let that be the reason why you aren’t able to make things happen!
Let’s venture down a path of thoughtful implementation so you can stop daydreaming about solutions and start moving on them!
How to collaborate with your team
AKA How to become an influencer (within your org)
If we look at the market, we can’t deny we exist in an exciting time; rapid introduction of solutions and tools every day, many of which explore untouched terrain. Innovators are inspired by challenges, and we benefit from their ideas that help us work faster, better, and more collaboratively. From project management tools to brand templating platforms (psst, that’s us), there are so many incredible solutions out there that are worth consideration. It is exciting! But, what can feel less exciting and perhaps daunting is getting everyone on board.
The uphill climb of influencing buy-off from key stakeholders and then the even bigger task of implementing it; well, it is a lot to take on, we get that. But hey, it’s worth it.
Influencer status within your organization is goals for all of us. We want to have a voice in how resources are allocated and thoughtfully advocate for solutions that we believe in. We also want to be heard by our peers. This dreamy world is possible, and if your organization is doing it right, your voice is valued.
There are many ways to influence the wrong way, but again, we want to focus on doing it the right way. To influence your cross-functional partners and gain the support of decision-makers, you have to introduce new ideas thoughtfully. You also have to be willing to receive pushback and learn from other points of view. A pushback does not necessarily mean “no.” Some of the very best ideas are birthed out of resistance.
Our very own CEO, Owen Fuller, often asks for us to disagree, encouraging us to share what we really think, especially if it is unpopular. In that place of discord is often where we uncover the best path forward.
Adam Grant, a well-known organizational psychologist, gives the best advice on this front.
“You’re entitled to your own opinions in your head. But if you choose to express them out loud, it’s your responsibility to:
Ground them in logic and facts
Explain your reasoning to others
Change them when better evidence emerges. “
We can apply this guidance when we present new ideas. We can also address old processes that are no longer working with this in mind. If we are thoughtful in how we present our ideas, others are more likely to recognize the effort, and we are more likely to influence their opinion. Influence in this context doesn’t mean you will win them over to your side– it means your insight is valuable to the conversation and will help lead to a solution.
According to Daniel Pink, NYT best-selling author, “40% of our day is spent influencing others, if you are in sales, it's even higher” (Forbes). Whether we realize it or not, that influence, when equipped with information, backed with reason, and supercharged with solutions, can make an impact.
To achieve true buy-in on your ideas, you must bring people along with you and make them a part of your solution. This means instead of simply presenting the solution, you have to include them in the why and the how to arrive at a collaborative resolution.
This does not mean you can’t have a plan for implementation in advance. In fact, sharing whether you are in the early thinking stages of a project versus a fully formed plan of action will help your team understand your position. In either case, it is your responsibility to provide opportunities for your team to weigh in and share their perspectives. So often, this part is skipped, resulting in low adoption and/or silos within your organization.
There are a few foundational principles of good collaboration. As we talk about sharing new ideas with your team, we want to keep these principles in mind at every step.
Trust. Support. Share. Assist.
You have to trust your team to execute their roles and responsibilities. You also have to trust their expertise. They were hired for a reason, let them do it!
The support pathways need to flow up and down. Support your leaders, your team, and your initiatives. This takes shape in different ways, but at the end of the day, whether you are a manager or a team member, everyone is in a supportive role.
Communicate and do it often. Share ideas and make sure others feel comfortable sharing with you. Providing input and continuing to do it takes effort, but it also demonstrates that you care. Remember, this flows both ways, so ask others to share with you. You are responsible for ensuring that you are approachable.
One of the best ways to facilitate collaboration is to offer assistance. It can be big or small, but when you let your team know you are available to help in any capacity, that demonstrates you are a good partner. At the same time, respecting your role on a project and recognizing that an assisting role on a project is different than ownership will also demonstrate you are a team player. Know the part you play and offer help!
We’ve now covered some important principles to keep the conversation flowing.
As a director or manager, remember that your team likely wants to be involved. As a team member, you likely want to have a say. The ages old, treating others how you’d want to be treated, apply especially if you consider how you would want new ideas to be presented to you.
Whether you are working to influence the decision-makers at your organization or you are trying to convince your team to support your approach, the steps you take to get true buy-in are important.
Let’s chat about those.
Steps to take from introduction to implementation
First, it is always preferred to let your team know as soon as possible if you are thinking of implementing something new or changing an existing process. Collaboration in the earliest stages will help move the process forward and ensure it is done the right way. Even if it is just a simple FYI, your team will respect you more if you keep them in the loop.
With that in mind, we want good ideas to move forward, and we want to ensure we properly vet them at every stage. These steps will ensure you go about it the right way and keep effective collaboration top of mind.
If you are a creative type, these probably strike in the middle of the night, likely around the 2 AM hour. Regardless of when the ideas roll in, the spark is something truly special. Maybe you see a problem or inefficiency within your organization that you have the energy to fix! Perhaps a tool/solution is on your radar, and you really believe it can change the game for your team.
In either case, your first course of action is to think it through! Put your idea to the test and give it some extra attention on your own. There are meetings specific to brainstorming, and we love them! Do them often. But, when you have an independent idea that you want to own and perhaps execute, give it some attention. And then, share it!
One of the easiest mistakes you can make is viewing your idea through a singular lens. Think about who else is impacted by this particular issue or who would benefit from the solution. Then, invite others in early. If it is a tool that would make things easier or better, consider other perspectives and get a quick read on it. An idea is just an idea until you poke holes in it and decide if it can become something more.
As you invite others in, listen. Learn how your co-workers and cross-functional partners may engage with it and take the time to think about it from their perspective.
Is your idea still an idea that you think is worth exploring further after you’ve let it marinade? Great! It’s time to dig in deeper.
No matter what you are planning, you need to do your research. Learn about how other organizations and teams approach these challenges. Perhaps take a look at all of the solutions and paths you could take and weigh them against each other.
Is there data to support your position? Pull it. If this is about fixing a problem, gather some information about why this needs to be addressed.
For example, your team needs to better track projects, but why? Is the lack of visibility an issue because there is too much in the funnel? Is there an imbalance in work distribution? To find the right project management tool for your team, you need to consider what your main goal is before you try to propose solutions. Consider the integrations that you need. As a general rule, look at the processes already in place that work really well and make sure the new addition will complement those wins.
In this stage, you also need to know what resources will be needed to implement.
Who ultimately needs to own this project?
What resources will be required (time/people/etc.)?
Who will this impact?
Who should be a collaborator on the project?
What is the cost/benefit?
Who needs to approve?
You may notice a lot of these questions are about WHO is involved. Again, collaboration, top of mind at every step, will foster a culture of effective communication throughout your organization. When you are mindful of your team and the expertise that they bring to the table, and you allow them to operate at their full potential, the outcomes will always be better than if you put them on a leash.
Perhaps nothing is more frustrating than when someone comes to the table with a solution that they are 100% confident will solve the problem. It feels disingenuous and completely disconnected from your reality. Are they really sure? They didn’t ask you about it, so how do they know? Let’s think about the foundational structure of an organization. You hire diverse opinions and perspectives. You purposely design roles around these unique backgrounds. To allow others to exercise their expertise, you have to allow them to share. You don’t know what you don’t know.
The sharing stage of a project is about getting input just as much as it is about presenting your idea. Don’t be the person who tries to roll out something new without talking to people about it first. Whether you choose to meet with individuals and run your ideas past them early or you gather decision-makers as a group, make sure you are engaging with different opinions.
This step is a two-part.
Share for input, then share for buy-in.
Hopefully, part one will happen in stages one and two. You’ve taken feedback and input into consideration and adjusted your plan to reflect their input. Now, you can formally present the collaborative plan to get the final “Yay!” or “Nay.”
Have you ever noticed that when you present new ideas and you share it as a collaborative effort, you are more likely to get the resources you need to make it happen?
If you’ve properly hashed through your ideas with your team before formally presenting your proposal, you should already know exactly what the feedback and hesitations will be. Quite honestly, collaborative suggestions will be more successful than individual initiatives.
Now, we’ve talked about this all with the best-case scenario in mind, but if at any point in stages 1-4, you received pushback from more than one team member and were unable to come to a mutually beneficial resolution, go back to the drawing board. Accept that the current state of your plan is not working. It doesn’t mean you need to drop it altogether, it may just mean that you must go back to the drawing board. You will be respected more if you are open about the areas that are falling short and take the time to improve the plan.
If you’ve made it this far, good on you! Now, you can put your plan into action. Implementation is the part where it could be rough at times, and there may be some speedbumps along the way, so trust, share, support, and assist your way through this phase.
Some projects take days, some weeks, so be sure to keep your team updated on how the implementation is going and let them know if there are delays or changes along the way.
Slack channels are a great way to keep people posted on project status and ensure that no one misses a change that could impact their workflow.
Other options? Set calendar reminders to update your team on milestones. Use standup meetings to give a status update. Remember, you have to share to keep the collaborative energy flowing.
Ok, this is so important! After you’ve implemented a project or plan, review it! Follow up and ask how it is working for everyone. You may think that your solution is working, but you have to actively seek out feedback to be sure.
It can be scary to open yourself up to criticism, but it is the only way to make a process better. Gather different perspectives and continue to evaluate the original problem, and stack them against the solution that you implemented. With any luck, it won’t be a hurdle anymore, and you can move on to the next great thing. If it's failing to do what you planned, it’s okay! You tried something, and with some tweaks, it may still work.
The review step, when done routinely, is what prevents the entire problem that we started this article with- resistance to change and hesitation about new ideas come from lack of practice and failed collaboration.
We discussed effective collaboration and ensuring it happens within your organization and teams. Ultimately, company culture is one of the biggest indicators of whether or not it is easy or difficult to launch new ideas. It takes real effort to ensure that your work environments champion new ideas, but it all starts with clear collaboration from start to finish. Make sure that your team feels comfortable challenging the process and provides opportunities for constructive feedback.
We leave you with this last tidbit of advice. Teamwork starts with you. When you collaborate together with intention, the ideas that become something more will deliver better results than the ideas you tried to bring to life alone.
Remember Trust. Support. Share. Assist. Reminds us a little bit of Captain Planet but in a work sort-of way. Instead of saving the planet, we are saving sanity.