In school, I always struggled with the team project. The idea of collaborating with others and creating a plan for creating the work always seemed to lend itself to a lot of vague discussions followed by one person doing the heavy lifting to get the project across the finish line. In my career, I’ve learned that essentially most of my work life is one big group project. I’m sure we’ve all worked on projects with colleagues that go well and then we’ve worked on some projects that just can never get going or get finished. What are the key features of a successful collaboration versus an unsuccessful one? 

Trust

At the core of a positive collaborative experience is trust. If your team trusts each other, it really does enhance the communication process. In Franklin Covey’s book The Speed of Trust, Covey describes in great detail the benefits of working in a high-trust environment. A few of these benefits include decisions being made faster and the outcomes of these collaborative efforts are more impactful. 

Clarity

What is the purpose of your project or collaborative effort? Is there a specific time when the purpose or objective needs to be completed? Collaborative endeavors that seem to drag on are usually lacking in a clear purpose and a deadline hasn’t been agreed upon. If these two items are taken care of right at the beginning of a project, the team has a better chance of success. Also, each team member should have a clear idea of their purpose for being on the project as well as what is expected 

A Conflict Management Strategy

When collaborating with others, differences of opinion are bound to happen, and having a strategy for managing conflict is helpful to continue to move forward. The first step in managing conflict is to accept it’s happening. If a team tries to ignore the fact there is an issue, this is only going to break any trust within the team that has already been established. Direct communication is generally best between those team members that might be experiencing conflicting views.

Summary

Collaboration is essential in the workplace. As long as teams focus on supporting a high-trust environment, having a clear focus and deadline, and a strategy for managing conflict, any collaborative endeavor can be successful.

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Building Powerful SaaS Professional Services Teams

Being a Tampa Bay resident, I can’t help but be amazed at the stroke of luck we’ve experienced with our professional sports teams last year and now this year with Tom Brady successfully leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl win. With some of our recent successes, I’ve been thinking about what it takes to build winning teams.

In business, we don’t have to typically worry about just one competitor, but many at the same time. Our performance last year may not be enough to keep our customers happy this year, and one small slip-up may mean a competing firm can get the upper hand and run away with our client. So how can we continue to provide great service year after year and build great professional services teams? In this blog, we’ll discuss five ways to build and engage powerful professional services teams.

  1. Hire Passionate Professionals – Some of the most successful members of professional services teams I’ve worked with are truly passionate about the clients they serve and they really believe in the SaaS product they are delivering (warts and all). These high-level performers are committed to their clients success as if it were their own.
  2. Create Engaging Learning Opportunities – High-performing professional services teams demand opportunities to help them learn more and grow. Typically, these teams are already aware of knowledge gaps and the training or skills needed to fill these gaps. A leader of a high-performing professional services team needs to listen to the team and look for ways to satisfy learning and development needs.
  3. Eliminate Mundane Tasks – Are your talented team members spending a lot of time on expense reports or other mundane tasks? Why? Could these valuable team members be spending their time helping clients with more complex challenges instead? If yes, look for ways to eliminate the tasks that can be outsourced so that your team can focus on what is most important: solving your client’s most complex challenges. In Steve Glaveski’s article, The Professional Services Firm of the Future, Glaveski offers great ideas on how to make the best use of some of the most creative problem solvers at your firm and not burn them out in the process.
  4. Fire Abusive Clients – Nothing can be more demoralizing than working with clients that really don’t appreciate your team’s time. If you’re growing a powerful professional services team, catering to a client that doesn’t understand the value your team brings is a waste of time. Many times, the clients that are the most problematic are not your highest paying clients. Don’t let an abusive client bring your team down. It’s better to break away from that client before you lose a valuable team member.
  5. Always Celebrate Success – Anniversaries, birthdays, project wins, and personal victories are all worth celebration. Nothing can erode morale faster than getting too busy to celebrate the little things and the big things.

Building a top-performing professional service team is key to successfully onboarding clients and increasing adoption. In order to help your clients get the most value they can after signing their initial contract for your services, make sure you are focusing on building the team that will impact that value the most within the first 90-days: your professional services team. By hiring the right professionals, creating learning opportunities, eliminating mundane tasks, firing abusive clients, and celebrating success, you’ll ensure that this critical team continues to help set your firm or product apart from your competitors.