How to become a more confident team worker

Do you find it easy to connect with people, both personally and digitally?

The modern workplace is increasingly replacing hierarchies with teams, and many employees are struggling to catch up. They aren’t quite sure how to best contribute, and many feel disconnected even with, or perhaps because of, the latest digital tools and processes.

In the workplace, ‘collaboration’ is about “working with at least one other person towards a common goal”. And it matters because it’s essential in a fast and smart environment, allowing organisations to quickly access skills and knowledge and a proven method for innovation.

Research shows that more and better ideas come from other people (over 70%), rather than individual creativity (less than 20%).

Today, collaboration tools and methods come in all shapes and sizes – digital platforms, social media, networks, video conferencing, face chat; and in-person options, such as meetings, boot camps, workshops, conferences and events. They are used for multiple purposes: project management, communication, design, innovation, research, rewards and recognition, knowledge sharing, marketing and operations.

There is no shortage of ways or reasons to collaborate. The problem is that many people find it challenging, and as a consequence, collaborative platforms and tools deliver far less than they promise.

How can you lift the collaboration performance of you and your team?

For most teams, there is an assumption that given both tools and opportunity, people will collaborate successfully simply because we are social beings. Time and again, this assumption is challenged.

Perhaps it’s because the change in focus from individual to team outcomes is the opposite of what we’d expect. Our training and education systems are hierarchical, and we strive for achievement as individuals rather than as a collective. Even though we are by nature tribal, our education and work systems have always reinforced the importance of individual attainment.

When we throw competent individuals into a collaborative team, many are ill-prepared. They don’t understand how to balance their individual contribution within a team effort. Many fear that sharing their knowledge and skills will be detrimental to their status, that a shared goal will conflict with their individual goals and many are wary of collaborative tools and situations because they are unsure how to use them.

At Hargraves, we’ve learned that you can overcome these barriers by addressing two key attributes: Confidence and Connectedness.

If every individual within the team feels confident about their place and purpose, and they know how to connect with others both personally and digitally, collaboration will be more successful.

Confidence comes from:
  • Autonomy: the feeling that you have control over your work. Hierarchies operate so that those at the top of the structure have autonomy and people at the bottom have almost no control. Teams provide the opportunity for much more distributed control among members; however, in many cases, these opportunities are not realised.
  • Competence: the feeling that you can deliver what is expected. Individuals don’t have to be experts; they have to be sufficiently competent to contribute, while also being able to acknowledge what they need to learn.  A feeling of incompetence leads to defensiveness and ultimately, disengagement.
  • A sense of progress: the feeling that you are moving forward which comes from having an overall direction or goal and getting regular, constructive feedback. A sense of progress provides the motivation to keep going. Without it, there will be a loss of morale and momentum.
Connectedness comes from:
  • Belonging: the feeling that you are a valued part of something bigger and that you value others. People often default to their tribal preferences, but in an increasingly diverse workforce, we need to find the bonds between people who are different. These bonds can be forged by shared purpose, respect and finding common interests. When people don’t feel that they belong, they cease to contribute.
  • Trust: the feeling that you will not be harmed, that your interests will be served as you will serve the interests of others. Trust provides the psychological safety for individuals to be themselves and respectfully say what they feel, without fear of ridicule or condescension. A lack of trust within a team breeds toxicity.
  • Engagement: the feeling that you are emotionally committed to the purpose; that you care about the outcome; that you want to contribute; and, that others want you to be part of the team. A lack of engagement will stall or kill progress.

The first step to addressing these barriers is to make them explicit.
Our Collaboration Assessment Tool will help you self-assess how well you are collaborating.
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