Slope Blog

Why Your Team Is Still Collaborating Wrong (and How to Do It Right)

[fa icon="calendar"] 11/13/18 9:07 AM / by Hassaan Bey

In season 10 of Survivor, the game started with two tribes of 9. Team Koror worked together well and Team Ulong did not, despite some of the most physical and more intelligent players being on the team Ulong. By the time the two tribes merged, Koror remained intact, while Ulong only had one member left.




Despite being two tribes on a reality show, Ulong and Koror provide solid lessons about what happens with teams that can and cannot collaborate effectively. In a survey done by Fierce Inc., 86% of respondents blamed workplace failures on a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication. When teamwork is effective, difficult tasks can be done in record time. However, that can quickly go the other way if your team falls into some of the many pitfalls that inhibit productivity.

Here are a few mistakes that your team may be making, and solutions to help your team perform better.

Poor Group Dynamics

Too often, one member or a small portion of a will assert themselves as alpha dogs and dole out orders without listening to feedback. When this happens, the rest of the team feels like they don’t belong, or aren’t seen as valuable members of the group. This leads to either conflict between differing opinions, or members that shut down completely and don’t offer any ideas or unique views.

It’s okay to have a team leader or a mentor, but if you do, they need to ensure that every voice is heard and that every member of the team feels comfortable enough to step up and vocalize how they can contribute. Alphas who delegate tasks risk failing to discover the individual strengths of some of their team members. If Brett specializes in social media marketing and Cynthia in graphic design, they should be in roles where their skills can be put to good use. When team members are placed in positions that play to their strengths, they are more likely to feel valued and have a positive attitude toward the work they are doing.

It’s also important for team leaders not to play favorites or delegate the main tasks to the same people every time. Find ways to encourage other members to step up, like asking for volunteers for certain roles, or asking quieter members of your team what they think. Make sure that you are offering them constructive feedback, even if their ideas aren’t world-changing. This increases the chances of them offering more suggestions in the future, which can include some incredibly smart, innovative ideas that you wouldn’t have heard otherwise.

Unclear Directions or Responsibilities

If Harry believes that it’s Jennifer’s responsibility to create a PowerPoint presentation, and Jennifer thinks that Harry is supposed to work on it, chances are that conflict will arise when neither of them completes the presentation.

Instead of jumping immediately into the project at hand, get together as a team and brainstorm ideas for every task that needs to be done. Once you have a comprehensive list, ask for volunteers for roles based on individual team members’ strengths. If more than one team member wants to work on the same task, find ways for the two to reach an effective compromise. If no one wants to do an aspect of the project, suggest incentives for the person(s) that do (ex. allow them to work on an issue of the project that they really want to do, if they are willing to complete a task that they don’t).

After all of the tasks are assigned and agreed upon, write out a schedule for each role and task. Create attainable milestones for longer tasks and be SMART about your goals. Make sure that no one role has too much or too little to do. If they do, find ways to balance the workload so that the team is working effectively.

Also, hold weekly team meetings to determine how everyone’s projects are going. Learn about what stages they are on and ask if anyone needs additional help or can provide a helping hand

Lack of or Unclear Team Goals

If your team isn’t excited about the projects at hand, or if they don’t feel incentivized to achieve these goals, your team is missing a fantastic unifier. If a team as both individuals and as a whole can be excited about reaching a goal, they are more motivated to work together to do so.

Offer rewards for a team, but also individual awards—and don’t always go to the same people.

Also, encourage team bonding outside of work so that team members can get to know one another better. It may not seem directly related to team goals, but by having the team get to know one another as individuals, they will be more incentivized to help out when needed and learn more about their team mate’s passions, strengths, and weaknesses. In addition, by getting to know the team better, you will have an idea of what rewards could generate more productivity.

Ineffective Communication

Encourage your team to be overly communicative. This will help ensure that every member of the team can get their point across and stay updated with the rest of the team.

If a member of the team feels like they aren’t being listened to if they have a concern or an idea, they will be discouraged from offering any contributions. Every member of the team should also feel safe and encouraged when speaking up on an issue relating to the task at hand. You will get the best work out of your team when they feel like their opinions matter and that when they communicate, someone will listen.

Be sure to have an open-door policy, and be open to comments or concerns, whether face-to-face or via a suggestion box. Above all, have a positive tone when addressing all concerns from your team members, and encourage your team to follow suit.

According to Jeanne Meister, co-author of “The 2020 Workplace,” an organization’s success depends on its ability to collaborate. Make sure that your company is more of a Koror than an Ulong by ensuring that they have the tools to deliver.

Hassaan Bey

Written by Hassaan Bey

Hassaan is the Creative Manager at Slope. He's worked with brands on hundreds of campaigns and projects to help tell their story.