Most of us probably agree that teamwork is essential to achieving big things. It’s pretty hard to go it alone. But in the same breath, we can also acknowledge another truth: sometimes, teamwork is just painful.
We’ve all had that sinking feeling that our team is reinventing the wheel or spinning in circles. We’ve struggled while hunting for that file, trying to remember which tool someone used to send it to us. We’ve worked hard on a project, only to discover that it’s already been done—or even worse, that another team is currently working on the exact same thing. And we’ve watched as more meetings crop up, slowly taking over our calendars (and taking our sanity along with them). This all adds up to a lingering, deflating sense of frustration towards teamwork, complete with sarcastic jokes and eyerolls.
It’s often tempting to look for quick fixes. Maybe you’ll knock a few meetings off the calendar or send out more status report emails. But that probably won’t get you very far. Because there’s something deeper going on here. These are all just symptoms of a broader problem. The real issue comes down to two things: communication and transparency.
The antidote? Take small steps right now to start taking the dysfunction out of collaboration. Here are some quick tips on how to make it happen:
1. Improve communication
Communication is at the core of collaborating, but we somehow both talk too much and share too little. We have too many ineffective meetings, yet we fail to share all the things we’re working on. We have all these communication tools, but we each use them differently, resulting in confusion and a mad scramble to track things down.
Here are some quick tips you can try out to improve communication:
- Stand up for meetings that matter. It’s not about getting rid of all meetings, it’s about having the right ones. You need a healthy mix of bigger-picture strategy sessions and smaller, tactical-level planning parties. But you also need to share relevant updates and hear about work that’s currently being done so efforts aren’t duplicated. Consider introducing daily or weekly stand-ups or quick team-wide meetings to sync on what everyone’s up to.
- Set some ground rules. Things get easier when everyone chooses the right ways to communicate. Get together to decide on a ‘team charter’ for communication. Figure out when to use video conference, phone calls, chat, or email, setting a preference order.
- Get everyone up to speed. Use tools to help with the heavy lifting of making sure everyone has visibility into projects. For example, with Spaces in Evernote Business, you can use the ‘What’s New’ and ‘Pinned notes’ features to quickly get up to speed on new projects or important work that everyone needs to be aware of. You can make it even easier by creating a note with a running list of projects being worked on, pinning it in a space everyone has access to.
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2. Build transparency
It’s easy to get caught up in the heads-down grind of our own work, forgetting about others. We also have a tendency to only share polished products, focusing on the hits and not so much on the misses. But a culture of transparently sharing is critical. Here’s how to cultivate it:
- Share it all. Don’t just share the shiny, finished deliverable. Try sharing ‘works-in-progress,’ notes, research, status updates—the whole enchilada. With Spaces, you can have one place for all of your team’s work to live, so you don’t have to search across shared drives, emails, or your own files to resurface all the bits that went into previous work.
- Take the good with the bad. Actively share what’s going on, even when it’s not going particularly well. Use status updates or post-mortems to go over what could have been done better, so your mistakes aren’t repeated by someone else in the future.
- Remind people to share. Be that guy. Ask to see what someone’s working on. If your team uses Evernote Business, remind your coworker to add her notes to a space. Transparency only works when we all participate in it, and sometimes it’s helpful to give a little nudge.
- Share for the future. Transparency kills two birds with one stone, making your current and future selves more productive. When everything’s transparently communicated and documented, your present-day team will run more smoothly. But it will also help out future co-workers as well. With Evernote Business they’ll have the ability to hunt through your team’s Spaces Directory before starting a project, discovering and tapping into work that’s already been done.
Collaboration is hard, but we’re on a mission to make it easier. And by taking small steps to improve communication and transparency, you can make teamwork a little better for everyone.