You know that moment--where you sit back in your recliner chair with your favorite drink in hand, nod in introspection and thank the good Lord that you don't work for that company anymore?

You know, the one where people walked on eggshells, the atmosphere was toxic, and you could trust your boss as far as you could throw him (and that thought crossed your mind many times)?

Toxic work cultures have been studied extensively over the last few decades, and what the literature is saying in books like Speed of Trust and Good to Great, is that in the healthiest of companies, the difference between high performing teams and just really good teams is the level of genuine care and concern the employees demonstrate towards each other.

So what's the starting point? You have to foster a workplace of care that is founded on strong collaboration and community.

The three key behaviors of highly collaborative teams

1. Synergy

A great team solicits diverse views and creative input from each other. They allow for healthy and vigorous debate on new ideas. The result is synergy.

Work is done at a faster rate because people feel valued and engaged -- their voices are heard. But it's the leader who is responsible for setting the stage and promoting such a culture.

2. Open communication

A great leader also fosters an environment where people are allowed to talk openly because it's a trusted culture.

Feedback is a two-way street (given and received) and highly encouraged. This leader will make sure information is available and flowing freely, and be very clear on goals and expectations so the whole team is accountable to results.

By sharing knowledge and decision-making with her team, this leader models transparency which over time builds trust and morale for the whole team to be equally transparent with each other.

3. Safety and trust

Before collaboration happens, "pump the fear out of the room." That's when you begin to see ideas flourishing; people feel safe to freely put all their ideas on the table without fear of judgment.

And once again, it's the leaders who must create space for others to experiment and fail, and when they do make mistakes, team members know that it's part of the learning environment.

Now you have employees who are not afraid of taking risks. In fact, the community encourages it because it's safe to do so.

Closing thoughts

If you're a leader looking to build a highly engaged and productive work community, you may want to jump on this bandwagon soon. Studies are saying that a collaborative community is especially attractive for Millennials (now the largest working demographic).

And if you find yourself in the enviable position of building or hiring a new team, set the expectation early that a community of collaboration is a pillar and strength of your culture. Then promote it, advocate for it, model it, nurture it, support it, demand it, and watch it fly...

Published on: Aug 25, 2016