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5 Strategies for Enabling Growth Dynamics in Cross-Functional Teams

Published: January 3, 2020

Author: Daniel DeMarais

From the classroom to the corporate world, we have probably all heard the phrase “teamwork makes the dream work” or another cliche of the sort. As silly as these can seem, there is truth behind the fact that business wouldn’t exist without a sum of diverse parts coming together to complete a shared goal. Where most view working with others as common sense, I believe there are 5 key tips that can accelerate a team’s relational success when put to practice. 

Be Objective

Sometimes this gets swept under the corporate rug because business language can be viewed as cold and emotionless, but communicating objectively with data and other resources will help you deliver points more effectively by establishing your credibility as a speaker. Often, we remain objective on emails with clients and bosses, but it is just as important to keep that level of objectivity when working internally on various projects. I want to make clear that this does not mean you cannot put exclamation points in your emails for an excited greeting! Like the bold lines in the coloring book, speaking objectively often tames our subjective angle to provide a well-rounded picture. From providing feedback to new hires to negotiating with your office manager for a new coffee machine, objective communication will help keep your message clear and concise making it easier to digest and understand.

Confirm and Confirm Again 

Launch dates, meeting times, task assignments, budget agreements, holiday planning, DELIBERATE TYPOS IN THE AD COPY?! The list of common initiatives goes on, and it is always better to confirm than it is to assume your team is on the same page. Confirming can seem pesky at times, but it is saying that you care by making sure all team members are aligned with a common point of reference, which is any form of shared documentation that can be accessed and reviewed by all appropriate team members. Important matters can be confirmed in person or on a phone call, but reaffirming this in writing will ensure all parties are aware and can save you time, heartache, and possibly your job.

Speak Sooner Rather than Later

How many times have you sent an email and had to deal with a couple days of radio silence before receiving a response? Hopefully the number is low, but the moral of the story is that it is better to reply or speak up early when faced with a difficult request than to put a person on hold. 
There are times I receive emails with challenging questions or tasks that may take time and research in order for me to craft an objective response. (See what I did there?) It is these moments when I remember how frustrating radio silence can be when you are on the other end. Sometimes we may feel like we need to have all the answers instantaneously, but we have to remember that we are humans and not search engines. Letting people know that you have received a request or question and are working on it will assure them of your attentiveness and alleviate any unwanted stress on your working relationships.

Always Explain Yourself

Does this point even need to be explained? The answer is yes, and I will say it louder for the people in the back. This point is a piggyback of the objective communication point, but it is just as important. 
It is essential to remember that there are often different levels of knowledge in the room in regards to various subjects, verbage, and strategy. Sometimes we forget how smart we are in our day-to-day and when we make a simple suggestion over email that may seem like common sense to us, it might not be to the person receiving the message. Once the working relationship is established, you might not need to spell out “Cost-Per-Click” in every email, but it is important to remember that statements of change and strategy should often be explained in a way that is understandable to an external party. A fun idea to think of when trying to explain complex strategy is “Could I get a 5th grader to understand the point I am trying to convey?”

Yes, and…

Last but certainly my most favorite piece of advice is something that I have learned from comedy improv groups and the band Phish. The mentality of “yes, and” comes from improvisational groups and the belief that there are no wrong answers. 
When working in teams, there are likely to be clashes of opinions or suggestions from all sides of the board. The key to keeping the process fluid and productive both internally and externally is to remember that we are all working together to achieve a common goal. “Yes, and” is a way of receiving another person’s suggestions with open arms while offering your wisdom and guidance to help improve it. This does not mean saying “yes” to every suggestion. The mantra can take the forms of many different sayings, such as “good question” “I like your idea” and “I see your point.” Essentially you are welcoming their suggestions and preventing discouragement while delivering your insights in an informative and objective manner. By keeping an open dialogue with an open mind, you can build successful trusting relationships both on and off the clock.

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