Managing Teamwork - Collaboration

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Laying the foundations for team effectiveness gives you a great base to work from, but you then need to actually manage teamwork in practice.

That means ensuring that everyone understands their role in the team, and that they engage in positive collaborative behaviours, including resolving conflicts when they arise.

Role clarity

For a team to work well together each team member needs to know the part that they play in the team, as well as the parts that each of their team members play.

When roles and responsibilities are clear, it encourages a sense of ownership and accountability, it reduces conflict caused by team member roles crossing over, and makes it easier for team members to monitor each other's performance, catch mistakes and hold each other accountable if responsibilities aren't met.

An excellent way of clarifying roles and responsibilities is to set up a RACI matrix that outlines the team tasks and each person's role in completing those tasks.

managing teamwork collaboration

RACI matrix

RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, informed.

  • Responsible - who is responsible for doing the work?
  • Accountable - who is ultimately accountable for the work being done? There should only be one person accountable for each task.
  • Consulted - who needs to be consulted when making decisions? (E.g. manager, subject matter expert).
  • Informed - who needs to be kept informed of what is going on?
RACI matrix

Mutual performance monitoring

Mutual performance monitoring is the ability for team members to keep track of each other's performance to ensure that work is meeting the expected standards, procedures are being followed, and things are generally running as expected.

If issues are identified, team members provide feedback to one another to enable the issues to be corrected. The idea being that with every team member keeping an eye on what is going on, it helps the team to maintain a consistently high level of performance.

To foster mutual performance monitoring you should:

  • Clarify expectations - team members need a shared understanding of what is expected in order to monitor it. Ensure the team has a clear understanding of team goals and team member responsibilities.
  • Make performance monitoring a norm - team members need to understand that giving and receiving feedback is how the team operates. It's also important that team members understand that mutual performance monitoring is not about team members keeping tabs on each other, but the team as a whole helping to maintain performance.
  • Foster respectful communication - team members need to trust that they can give and receive feedback in an open and respectful manner. If feedback is used to criticise, demean or humiliate other team members, it undermines the process, as do defensive reactions to feedback.

Back-up behaviour

Back-up behaviour is the ability of the team to identify when there is a workload distribution problem in the team (i.e. some team members are overloaded while some have more capacity) and re-distribute the work amongst the team members to ensure that the work gets done. Research has shown that teams that are able to compensate for each other are better able to maintain performance under periods of high stress.

To foster back-up behaviour in your team, you should:

  • Provide flexibility in work arrangements - although it's important for each team member to have a clearly defined role and specific tasks that they are responsible for, to foster back-up behaviour team members need to have the flexibility (i.e. be allowed) to jump in and help out when needed.
  • Manage individual performance - individual performance needs to be managed to ensure that team members are not overloaded due to incompetence or laziness. If additional work is put on to team members because of another team member's failure to perform, this will create resentment within the team.

Team conflict

While conflict in a team environment is inevitable, it is potentially damaging to team relationships and can have a negative impact on team performance if not managed well. For a team to work well together, team members need to be able to manage their conflicts in a constructive way, and where they can't, you need to step in.

To help manage conflict in your team you should:

  • Provide coaching - help your team members develop their conflict management skills and learn how to resolve their differences in a constructive manner and avoid escalating conflicts further.
  • Minimise the causes of conflict - conflicts often arise out of a lack of clarity. Having clear goals, clear roles and responsibilities, and clear ground rules can go a long way to minimising conflict.
  • Step in when needed - should a conflict escalate, you need to step in and help your team members resolve it and prevent it escalating any further.

Learn more

Next: Managing Teamwork - Additional resources