21 Ways to Encourage Collaboration Among Startup Team Members
To help you foster collaboration among your startup team members, we’ve gathered twenty-one insightful tactics from CEOs and founders. From organizing hackathons for innovation to capitalizing on strengths and external partnerships, discover the most successful strategies these leaders have implemented in their startups.
- Organize Hackathons for Innovation
- Align Team Members to a Problem
- Establish Cross-Functional Teams
- Implement Agile Sprints
- Utilize Bonusly and Organize Fun Activities
- Solve Issues via Impromptu Huddles
- Promote Seamless Communication and Openness
- Prioritize Socialization and Fun
- Create a Dedicated Space for Collaboration
- Hold All-Hands Meetings and Strategic Planning
- Include Team-Designed Workflows
- Introduce Lunch & Learn Sessions
- Step Outside the Office and Buddy-Lunch
- Hire and Up-Skill Young Talent
- Lead by Example and Build Trust
- Host Regular Innovation Hours
- Apply the Triumph Team Method
- Cultivate a Shared Sense of Purpose
- Combine a Shared Vision and Open Communication
- Conduct General Brainstorms and Horizontal Communication
- Capitalize on Strengths and External Partnerships
Organize Hackathons for Innovation
Organize regular hackathons or innovation challenges where team members from different departments or roles come together to solve specific problems or work on new ideas. Provide them with dedicated time and resources, and encourage cross-functional teams.
This approach not only sparks creativity and problem-solving but also enhances communication and teamwork. It’s a fantastic way to break down silos and ensure everyone’s voice is heard, from developers to marketers. Plus, it’s fun and builds a culture of innovation and collaboration.
Remember, it’s not just about the outcome; it’s also about the process and the lessons learned along the way.
Align Team Members to a Problem
Collaboration generally means working together for the purpose of achieving a shared goal. Often, this shared goal hasn’t been agreed upon upfront, resulting in everyone going off on tangents. The tactic I always use to rectify this breaks down into three parts:
- Align team members to a specific problem first.
- “Work together, alone” on the same problem.
- Come back together, compare ideas, and choose the best solution on merit.
I always ensure team members are aligned on a specific problem by guiding them through the process of defining the problem together first. Once this is done and agreed upon in a democratic fashion, they are free to begin collaborating on solutions. “Working together, alone” simply means that everyone works independently on the same problem before showing each other their thinking and ideas. Once this is done, each idea can be judged on its merits, allowing the group to align on the best solution.
Establish Cross-Functional Teams
Collaboration among startup team members is essential for developing creativity and achieving overall success. Establishing a culture of collaboration and open communication is essential in the dynamic startup environment, where each team member plays a crucial role. Cross-functional teams are one particularly successful strategy we’ve used at our startup to foster collaboration.
At our startup, we saw the importance of cross-functional teams early on. We intentionally put together teams with members from different backgrounds and skill sets, as opposed to isolating employees within their specialized tasks or departments. A product development team, for instance, might include engineers, designers, marketers, and customer service agents. This strategy not only sparks new ideas but also promotes creativity and a thorough understanding of our goods.
Implement Agile Sprints
In this dynamic tech landscape, one tactic that has proven most successful in nurturing collaboration is our approach to Agile Sprints. We implement Agile methodologies to foster cross-functional teamwork, ensuring everyone is aligned with our goals.
Through Scrum meetings, our development teams, designers, and project managers come together, each playing a unique role. This tactic enables us to quickly adapt to changes, deliver high-quality products, and maintain a customer-centric focus. It’s a fine balance of structure and flexibility, a method that has consistently yielded exceptional results in an ever-evolving IT environment.
Utilize Bonusly and Organize Fun Activities
We use a tool called Bonusly, which allows team members, managers, and leaders to give bonus points to co-workers based on their observance of our core values, willingness to help other team members, and putting in extra time to “get the job done.”
Additionally, each quarter, we have a firm outing where we take the entire team out and do something fun. For instance, we all went to a Cleveland Guardians game and did an activity called Whirlyball, which was really fun.
Solve Issues via Impromptu Huddles
We have a policy that we don’t find solutions via chat, but try to solve complex issues via impromptu “huddles,” short audio calls. This has greatly helped us bounce ideas off each other and overall respond faster to changing environments. Audio just offers so much more nuance and speed than text!
Promote Seamless Communication and Openness
To promote collaboration in our startup team, we focus on two key tactics.
The first is emphasizing a culture of open communication and teamwork. We’ve standardized the use of project management tools like JIRA, which streamlines connectivity and ensures effortless collaboration among team members.
Also, we encourage a culture of openness at all levels. Our leadership and HR actively support employees in reaching out to managers and teammates when facing challenges. This openness fosters trust and enhances collaboration within the team.
These tactics have proven highly successful in nurturing a collaborative and efficient startup team.
Prioritize Socialization and Fun
Try to actually have fun. A startup is such a different beast than an established organization; you need to prioritize socialization, fun, and blowing off steam in such a way that your team gels better afterwards.
It cannot be an afterthought—it is something that you need to dedicate time and budget towards. I recommend company-sponsored camping/hiking trips, going to play laser tag, and other active endeavors that still give people some time to kick back at the end of the day and get to know each other as people.
Create a Dedicated Space for Collaboration
One of the most successful tactics we’ve used to foster collaboration among our startup team members is the creation of a dedicated physical or virtual space for collaborative work. This space should be designated as a free-thinking environment; private office spaces, cubicles, and other traditional workspaces don’t always inspire collaboration.
We outfitted the room with unique furniture that encourages lounging and comfortable seating to support a relaxed atmosphere. We also installed plenty of whiteboards for brainstorming and colorful sticky notes to record ideas quickly. It has proven effective in cultivating an innovative mindset between team members.
Hold All-Hands Meetings and Strategic Planning
Two major tactics have encouraged collaboration within our team:
1. An optional, monthly all-hands meeting.
2. Hiring a CMO who strategizes quarterly and brings marketing teams together in pursuit of a common goal.
Our remote team works in the US, Canada, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. In a digital world, we need to be organized, and we need to make an effort to bring the team together.
An optional all-hands meeting brings the team together in a low-pressure environment. We spend five to ten minutes per team sharing wins, opportunities, and goals. Through this meeting, our team can see how their work impacts the wider company, and it fosters relationships and idea generation. The more our team knows about what’s happening within the company, the more we can bring them together.
This meeting, paired with our marketing plan implemented by our new CMO, means that our teams are working toward a common goal. Everyone knows the why behind their work.
Include Team-Designed Workflows
One of our most effective tactics has been team-designed workflows. Instead of imposing a top-down structure, I invited all members to craft our daily processes collaboratively.
I remember one instance vividly where Sarah, from design, suggested a tweak in the feedback loop. Tim from marketing resonated with this. We implemented it, and our productivity soared. The team felt truly valued and heard. This approach made everyone invested, blending their unique skills and insights to drive our shared mission forward.
Introduce Lunch & Learn Sessions
In our startup, nurturing collaboration is a priority, and one successful tactic has been the introduction of “Lunch & Learn” sessions.
Every Friday, we gather for a casual lunch where one team member presents on a topic of their expertise, whether it’s related to our work or a personal passion. These sessions encourage knowledge sharing, build rapport, and spark unexpected connections among team members, ultimately enhancing collaboration.
Step Outside the Office and Buddy-Lunch
Getting out of the office is beneficial. For my startup, one of the most effective ways to bring the team together is by stepping outside the office.
It’s more than just planned events; it’s the small moments. Perhaps a coffee break in the morning or a chat after work. These little breaks allow us to see each other as friends, not just coworkers.
One activity we enjoy is the “buddy-lunch.” Everyone pairs up and goes out to eat, rotating partners each time. It’s simple but makes a significant difference.
Hire and Up-Skill Young Talent
The biggest success story for this has actually been our overall hiring and up-skilling strategy, rather than any one specific action. We knew from the time we cooked up the idea for the business that we wanted to hire young, skilled people that we could train up holistically in all areas of the business to grow our future generation of leaders.
As you might imagine, having this core get to know and do everything has meant that they are all generally on the same page as the others, regardless of what activity they are currently engaged in. And while there has naturally been some specialization over time, the fact remains that they all understand and can collaborate with each other much better than most.
Lead by Example and Build Trust
If you want to foster collaboration with your team members, the most important thing to do is lead by example. You can talk the talk, but you need to walk the walk.
In team meetings, ensure that everyone is included. Get people working together and provide the tools, like WhatsApp, Google Chat, or Slack, to enable that on a day-to-day basis.
You can even do what we do and start meetings on a Monday morning with a discussion about what everyone has done at the weekend. Alternatively, organize an activity, like a walk, where you all get together outside of a work-based location. This will help you all connect on a more personal level as well as a professional level.
Relationships are based on trust and mutual respect at the end of the day. So, as a leader, you have to create that environment, and your team will follow.
Host Regular Innovation Hours
Fostering collaboration in a startup environment is crucial for driving innovation and growth. One tactic we’ve found particularly effective is hosting regular “Innovation Hours.”
Every two weeks, team members form cross-functional groups to brainstorm and pitch ideas outside their regular tasks. This not only sparks creativity but also deepens inter-departmental connections.
The result? Enhanced team cohesion, fresh project concepts, and a reinforcement of our collaborative culture. In essence, carving out dedicated time for open collaboration has been a game-changer for our startup’s dynamism and unity.
Apply the Triumph Team Method
The most stimulating strategy to foster collaboration among my startup team members is the Triumph Team Method. It’s a fusion of regular, twice-a-month feedback, Agile goals, and a reward system that celebrates triumphs. The method promotes constant brainstorming and unfiltered dialogue.
With biweekly goals, we gain laser-focused clarity on our overarching objectives, leaving no room for detours. Every team member relishes a sense of purpose and accomplishment. The results? Incredible! Since launching the Triumph Team Method, barriers have shattered. Teamwork has been electrified, innovation has sparked, and knowledge has flowed freely.
To utilize this 100% effective tactic, schedule regular one-hour meetings every two weeks. Define biweekly objectives and rewards explicitly. Offer clear feedback and accept received insights for later reflection.
Cultivate a Shared Sense of Purpose
Fostering collaboration among our startup team members begins with cultivating a shared sense of purpose. Our fully remote team thrives not only because of the efficiency of our communication and collaboration tools, but because of the collective belief in the “why” behind our business.
This echoes Simon Sinek’s wisdom that “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” So, it’s essential to not base your hiring decisions solely on qualifications. Recruiting individuals who genuinely resonate with your mission is equally pivotal. When team members are driven by a deeper purpose rather than just profit, it fuels their intrinsic motivation.
The result? A consistent and passionate commitment to working together to innovate, problem-solve, and achieve our common goals.
Combine a Shared Vision and Open Communication
As a startup founder, fostering collaboration among team members is crucial for the company’s success and growth. Collaboration enhances productivity and promotes innovation, creativity, and a positive culture.
To achieve this, the startup founders have implemented various strategies, but one specific tactic that has been most successful is creating a shared vision and purpose. When team members understand and align with the company’s mission, goals, and values, they are more likely to work together towards a common objective.
To foster collaboration, we encourage open and transparent communication within the team. This includes regular team meetings, both in-person and virtual, where everyone can share updates, ideas, and challenges. These meetings serve as a platform for team members to collaborate, provide feedback, and brainstorm.
Conduct General Brainstorms and Horizontal Communication
Our team comprises many departments: project managers, analysts, writers, designers, and community managers. They work in constant collaboration with each other.
Several times a month, we hold general brainstorms, which bring together everyone involved in the project, regardless of functionality. This helps to take a fresh look at the projects and share experiences.
We try to develop a culture of horizontal connections and communication within the agency. This promotes a warm and comfortable atmosphere where anyone can turn to a colleague for help or advice.
Capitalize on Strengths and External Partnerships
The cornerstone of successful collaboration lies in capitalizing on inherent strengths. This involves seamless communication and coordination with internal resources, as well as forging partnerships with external experts.
By harnessing individuals’ strong suits, we can elevate collaborative endeavors to new heights. Leveraging your internal resources serves as a bedrock for feasibility and heightened productivity. Empowering team members to step up based on their experiences can catapult collaborative efforts.
In instances where your organization encounters skill gaps, I recommend turning to trusted external partners. This strategic external injection of expertise will bring in new perspectives, often leading to novel ideas and ingenious problem-solving.
Tyler Butler, Chief Social Impact Officer, Collaboration for Good