How To Support A Collaborative Retail Team
For the past three months I have been very involved in some really exciting retail consulting projects. This is a unique experience because I am learning a lot and getting to experience and identify collaborative efforts and that tools that work and some practices that do not. Two of my projects are very easy and the programs we are working through are areas that we are very much aligned and things that I am extremely familiar with. The third project is a little more complex for a few reasons, (1) There are more people involved [13 of us], (2) Our priorities/passions are not aligned, (3) We are functioning in our own silos. This project has led me to think about how much we take for granted when we have the ability to focus on building relationships and trust through working with a known team to cultivate a sense of collaboration. The fact is that collaboration isn’t always easy, it can, over time position your team to be master innovators and challenge themselves and to deliver some seriously creative ideas and solutions.
Developmental Benefits of Collaboration
- Self-awareness. Nothing speaks to what you bring to a team more than when you’re forced to articulate your competencies Collaborating challenges you to articulate and distill what you are great at, and what you do poorly. That honesty about your strengths and weaknesses can force you to ask for help when necessary and be bold about how you can help others. It’s a great way to determine our level of contribution and alignment with our coworkers. And it allows us on opportunity to develop and learn new competencies.
- Creative abrasion. “Abrasion” is a process of wearing down through friction. We typically associate friction with something negative, but friction in its purest form, is energy. So why not convert that energy that comes from working with people who are different from you, into something positive? Leverage and value the differences and work to identify what can be complementary about them. [Source: Inc]
- Scale. More effective problem solving happens when you combine resources in talent, experience, and perspectives. Sharing and leveraging those resources means that your reach and re-energize the connection you have with your customers. Social organizations thrive where there are diverse and complimentary systems that enhance the lives others and brings to fruition your brand promise during every interaction. Understand that your team and your contribution is part of a greater whole, and that there is power in that.
- Learn! Collaborating encourages your employees to become a team of learners, and for the organization to create structures that support that learning through safety nets for failure, and opportunities for growth in all aspects of employees’ lives. Each time your employees collaborate with others you optimize the capacity of your team members to extend beyond their comfort zone, grow, and in turn, stretch the boundaries of the organization. Collaboration forces us to exercise competencies such as – communication, listening, compromise and collective effort.
- Integration and Accountability: Truly collaborative team members understand that “they’re all in this together” — which implies that they either succeed as a group, or they come up short. Collaborative teams outline roles and responsibilities inside the team to create clarity and accountability. Each team member understands their position and what’s needed from them. In an exceedingly cooperative environment, all contributors and participants take responsibility and ensure consistent outcomes.
- It moves a company more effectively towards its goals:
Habits Of High-Functioning Collaborative Team
- Build signature relationship practices:
Signature relationship practices are unique to your team or organization and how you function. These practices are defined by the way the employees interact and respect each other in the workplace. They fit well within your organizational culture and are often tough for others to replicate due to the uniqueness of your retail organization. These relationship practices are very team-oriented and are often memorable for those involved and are aligned with the overall values and vision. By making investments in these practices, leadership demonstrates their commitment to supporting and encouraging collaborative behavior.
- Assign team leaders that possess operational focus and relationship focus:
The ability to unite many ideas and personalities and still allocate the right tasks to the right people in a productive and democratic manner requires a well-rounded and skilled retail leader. Both maintaining relationships and assigning responsibilities are essential skills for any leader, and the most productive and innovative teams are typically led by people who were focused on both operations/accountability and relationships.
- Build in contextualized communication:
The ability to capitalize on preexisting knowledge to share information and history plays a major role in transferring skills and organizational knowledge across team members. Make sure relationships exist on your teams that share past experiences and build plans around the objectives and goals of the current task, especially when incorporating a new employee. The ability of a team to seamlessly incorporate a new member and get them up to speed quickly not only directly impacts the success of that individual, but it will also influence the future success of the organization.
- Understand role clarity and task ambiguity:
Collaboration and cooperation greatly improve when individual team members have clearly defined roles and responsibilities and timelines. It becomes much easier for teams to collaborate towards achieving the objectives and goals when that they are clearly defined. Flexibility in terms of how to achieve that goal provide the individual or team an opportunity to develop a sense of ownership and develop innovative solutions to the task – but the ultimate desired outcome must be clear.
- Use tools that bring efficiency and effectiveness:
Successful collaborative teams like to connect with each other in the most efficient and effective way. They also recognize and respect their team member’s schedules and other roles/responsibilities. I LOVE Slack when we are working together on a team project of 3 or more people. Keeping all relevant and needed information in one singular location created for the task. However, before rushing to pick a new collaboration platform focus on developing a strategy which will help you understand the “why” before the “how.” This is crucial for the success of any collaboration initiative. You don’t want to be in a position where you have deployed a technology without understanding the why of it’s necessity.
- Get out of each others way:
Collaborative teams stick to their part of the task but are there to support their colleagues when help is needed. Team leaders of collaborative initiatives understand that by trying to enforce and police everything, you stifle collaboration and innovation within your team. Some best practices and guidelines are fine to communicate but the best team let the players do what they need to do and how they need to do it.
- Support a strong sense of community:
When an organization cultivates a strong sense of community during collaboration, individuals feel more comfortable reaching out to others, sharing knowledge, and helping to solve problems. These teams also inspire each other by recognizing their accomplishments and milestone achievements. By definition, collaborative teams should see that each accomplishment achieved by an individual involved is a win for the team and great teams realize that and celebrate the accomplishment.
- Use One Calendar:
For your teams, this means everyone can work on the same timeline without stepping on each others toes. This provides clear direction and timeline communication to keep each contributor on track to the objective deadline.
- Integrate into the flow of work:
Collaboration should never be seen as additional work or requirement for employees. Instead collaboration should fit naturally into their flow of work or into their role without feeling like it is just simply “more”. Ensuring that we aren’t interrupting and forcing priority of this one task to the team members is key. Everyone has “other” work to get done that is also extremely important and pressing.
- Infuse their brand into the every aspect of the task:
Branding is very important to most companies now as it’s recognized that a strong retail brand is likely to fare better. This is because a brand represents a company’s personality and when done well, a brand communicates the company ethos instantly to the customer and employee. Keeping the vision and values top-of-mind for team members, which are the guiding principles of the brand, will help them be enthusiastic about their contributions and understanding of how their contributions fit into the brand objectives and promise.
Collaboration, done well, not only equals a happier workforce, it represents an educated and healthy one that is focused on growth. This is because collaboration naturally inspires a sense of community and supports workplace relationships within the retail organization, meaning that employees feel kind of like they are a part of a family and want to make their work family proud!