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The Key to Improving Team Collaboration

Of course, team collaboration and how efficient your team are at working together can be impacted by many factors, including the level of resilience within your team. However, one ingredient can be key to moulding your success and this is interdependence. Interdependence is a skill which requires a conscious choice by team members to step away from selfish tendencies. It requires greater levels of trust, effort and tolerance to achieve it and its key building blocks are coordination and collaboration. So, what does it look like in terms of mindset and attitude and in practice?

Each team member will need to choose a mindset that facilitates greater collaboration and coordination. Also, a mindset where:

  • help is asked and offered freely
  • you put any team tasks before your own task or priorities
  • no-one is finished until everyone is finished
  • we collectively own a problem (rather than “that’s not my job”) as well as, collectively owning success

In order to achieve results, it requires a degree of selflessness and a level of fellowship where people ask, ‘where do I add the most value?’ and ‘what can I do to ensure team success?’ rather than ‘where do I want to be?’. The former can be more simply expressed by the phrase “see it, solve it”. It’s also important to remember, a team’s language reflects interdependence. A simple way to measure this is whether the team habitually use the word ‘our’ rather than me or mine, proving where their main focus lies.

The Main Effort

If you have read last week’s blog, ‘How to establish a successful team culture’ you will already be on your way to determining the objectives and strategy of your team. Therefore, you should also be able to identify your main effort i.e. what are the qualities and capabilities you need to have or be good at as a team?

For example, if you want to be the first team to create a piece of software no one else has been able to, then you will need to be pioneers. So, what set of objectives – typically no more than 4-6 – are critical to achieving that? What do you need to have in order to deliver that? Out of these, which single one is the absolute priority, your main effort? Part of working interdependently is that these objectives are shared and owned by team members. Each team member knows how their efforts contribute to the main effort. This is called having ‘line of sight’.

In practical terms, working interdependently also means that you play to people’s strengths and coach and support each other with weaknesses. Whether technical or behavioural, there should be a free sharing of information rather than hoarding it. Another way of encouraging this is by operating in buddies and having an effective chain of command as part of a shared and distributed approach to leadership. As this results in quick resolution of conflict.


  • Talk to your team about what it means to operate interdependently, both in terms of mindset as well as in practical terms


  • Looking at your overall objective and team purpose, get your team to identify the mission-critical tasks and objectives and your main effort. Then discuss and assign shared ownership and how you will review progress


  • Discuss all barriers to effective communications across all boundaries and how you will address them


  • Talk openly about weaknesses and shortcomings and development needs. Put actions in place to address any gaps


  • At team reviews, revisit main effort, communication and other aspects of Interdependence and ask how well the team is doing. Have people adopted the habit of regularly exchanging expectations with key relationships?
Thank you for taking the time to read our blog! If you have any questions feel free to contact us.
Check back in next Tuesday for more tips on improving team performance.

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Gerry De Vries

Written by Gerry De Vries

Since leaving the Marines in the early 90s and taking his MBA at London Business School, Gerry has become a specialist in turning businesses around. His particular expertise lies in improving performance through effective leadership and culture change. He has played a leading role, as Management Team member, Interim Manager and Consultant, in a number of strategic turnarounds and optimisation projects, across different industries. He has led over 35 teams globally and worked with leaders at all levels including Executive and Ministerial.

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