If the average business owner or CEO were to somehow create an accurate list containing all the relevant skills possessed by each member of their company, the result would almost certainly be staggering.

Their next question would likely run something like this: ‘If I have so many important and even vital skills at my company’s disposal, why isn’t my company at the very top of the pile?’ The answer lies in the challenge posed by effective collaboration. Individual skills, no matter their relevance, mean very little in a business environment if they can’t be deployed effectively in concert with other people’s skills. In short, it is almost certainly the case that within the total list of skills possessed by everyone within your company lies a collaborative solution to 90-95% of the challenges encountered by your business on a day to day basis. The real challenge lies in nurturing and maintaining effective collaboration within your workforce.

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The new age of interaction

While the seeds of good business collaboration can still take root around a water cooler, the new age of international commerce and remote working has led to the development of a variety of new platforms and collaboration tools that allow even the farthest-flung employees to become a valuable and interactive part of a business team. Online platforms, such as the recently developed document creation platform Xara Cloud, provide a means for creative collaboration that can occur in real time and from just about anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Today, I’m going to give you a quick breakdown of what is required to create a true atmosphere of collaboration within your workplace, be it a bricks-and-mortar or virtual environment. We will also look at how new platforms such as Xara Cloud can facilitate this in ways that were hitherto fore impossible.

Effective leadership

Far too often, the term ‘good business leadership’ conjures up images of confident individuals standing over the heads of underlings and snapping off a rapid list of orders while pointing at people and clicking fingers. However, authentically effective oversight involves a deft touch and an understanding of when to step in and provide clarity and when to step back and let the natural abilities of the team take care of things. Collaborative online platforms can facilitate this by providing a means to create clear and concise goals for the team as well as an ability to remotely observe how those goals are progressing without impeding that progress. In short, they offer a means to understand when to leave well enough alone and when it’s time to step in a provide motivation or guidance.

Optimize the use of individual strengths

While I continually espouse the benefits of effective collaboration, I should remind readers that I also believe that the desire for collaboration can and often does become a negative if taken to extremes. Not every task requires input from everyone on the team. Platforms of the kind already mentioned allow for tasks to be assigned easily to each member. This means that one can garner the benefits of individual skill and effort while keeping it within the frame and purview of the team and its leaders. This kind of transparent task assignment allows the team to go some way to calibrating itself when it comes to striking a balance between offering advice and input on the one hand and getting on with a job you know how to do on the other.

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Cohesion and a collaborative atmosphere

While direct intervention and oversight can be a useful way to promote collaboration on a case by case basis, creating an atmosphere that encourages and thrives on inter-departmental cooperation is a far better long- term strategy for maximizing the potential of your workforce. It is up to leadership to ensure that each employee knows the value placed by the company on things like diverse viewpoints, creative brainstorming and constructive feedback. Online platforms like Xara Cloud benefit this process by lending themselves to cohesion. When team members can remotely keep tabs on how everything is progressing while at the same time maintaining an involvement in major project decision, leaders will start to notice a reduction in the number of times they have to step in directly.

Ultimately, the aim is to create an environment where working together becomes an exponential process, the benefits of which are blatantly obvious to everyone in the company.

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