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6 Strategies for Breaking Down Silos in Your Organization

The relentless pace of change in the corporate world today requires teams to collaborate and innovate. Therefore, company culture must overcome silos and support effective, cross-functional interaction between teams. When teams break out of their silos, the organization has a better chance for long-term success. In a survey of global operations managers, 61 percent cited cross-functional collaboration as being the key to helping the company reach strategic goals. Here are six strategies that can help break down silos and foster greater cross-functional collaboration across the entire organization:

Communicate a Unified Vision

Often, organizational silos form because individual or departmental goals have become such a priority that they become all-important, causing employees to lose sight of broader company goals and purpose. A unified vision that is broadly communicated among employees helps individuals to understand that individual and team goals are secondary to organizational vision.

For organizations that have grown accustomed to operating in silos, the vision will need to be communicated often and across different mediums so that it remains top of mind. When people see the bigger picture, they can begin to understand their unique place in the organization, as well as that of others. In time, a focus on self and team will expand to include other individuals and teams that are also part of the company vision.

Create Shared Accountabilities

Once a unifying vision has been established and communicated, it needs to translate into the everyday behaviors of teams and individuals to take hold. Teams can benefit from having shared goals that pull them together rather than divide them. For example, an organization might align the IT department’s goals with those of other departments to ensure more efficient use of internal IT systems. To further break down organizational silos, it can also be helpful to have two or more teams work together on a task force that ends with a joint presentation to senior management.

Bring Teams Together

Breaking down organizational silos and increasing cross-team collaboration doesn’t happen on its own, but will be more likely when individuals have opportunities to interact and work together. Joint meetings, focus groups, and chat sessions can provide employees with opportunities to get to know people from other teams, who does what, and how they can help each other to achieve company goals. Other activities that bring teams together include combining similar teams under co-heads, or co-locating teams that can benefit from being in close physical proximity, as in the case of companies that sit sales and marketing teams together. Organizing a corporate events can also promote collaboration, build trust, and encourage relationships between teams.

Get Leaders On Board

People on different teams will be unlikely to collaborate and will remain in silos unless they see leaders modeling collaborative behavior. Company leaders need to set the example to demonstrate that they expect cross-functional teamwork and information sharing from their employees. Leaders can support greater collaboration in the following ways:

  • Talk about shared goals between teams
  • Assign a team member or two to keep another team in the loop on a key project
  • Regularly communicate and spend time with leaders of other teams
  • Recognize and reward individuals who demonstrate collaboration with other teams

Incorporate Collaboration Tools

In the digital age, there is a range of workplace collaboration tools that can bring teams together in the cloud, making it easier to share ideas and information. Digital collaboration tools can be particularly helpful in unifying remote teams and individuals. Some examples include:

  • Project management platforms with chat and virtual whiteboard capabilities
  • Shared documents that allow multiple teams to access and collaborate
    on presentations, proposals, and project plans
  • Data management tools that incorporate data from other platforms—for example, a CRM that integrates with company dashboards used by various teams

Shift Mindsets and Behavior with Training

A great way to help employees break free from silos is to train them to engage in behaviors that support more teamwork and collaboration. With the help of accountability, communication, and leadership training to name a few, employees can learn more about the dangers of silos, see the benefits of collaboration, and practice useful techniques for breaking down silos back on the job.

Organizational silos stand in the way of innovation and growth. They also limit the success of individuals, preventing them from realizing the positive benefits of teamwork and collaboration. By using strategies that encourage individuals to think of themselves as part of the broader organizational team, more cross-functional collaboration can become a reality.

6 Strategies to Help Leaders Break Down Silos At Work

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The Link Between Employee Engagement And Staff Retention

It’s of the utmost importance that we recognize how employee engagement and staff retention are connected. When employees are not engaged at work, they have little incentive to stay. Even pay increases often cannot keep an employee who is not engaged, especially if they don’t see a promising future that includes satisfying work and a clear development path.

Given this, it’s not surprising that an SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey indicated that the top three workforce challenges for HR professionals are retention, engagement, and recruitment. Rather than dealing with the symptoms—turnover and recruitment issues—getting to the root of the problem leads to long-term solutions. Focusing on engagement can help reduce turnover, which also alleviates recruitment issues because there are fewer empty positions to fill.

Why Is Retention Important?

One of the most motivating reasons for businesses to improve retention is the fact that it’s expensive. The cost of turnover includes lost productivity, lost profits, recruitment, training, and more. A Deloitte report found that the average cost to replace an employee is around $7,000. For large organizations with high turnover, this can quickly add up. While this number might seem reasonable, the more shocking number that is less easy to see in a financial report is the cost of lost productivity, which is estimated around $120,000 per employee. Even the loss of one employee can have an impact on the bottom line.

Another reason to focus on retaining valuable employees is the company culture. High-turnover companies have a hard time building the culture they want because there are fewer long-term employees to demonstrate the ideal behaviors. Additionally, when employees see that others frequently leave the organization, it sets a negative tone and prompts them to question why they are staying.

How Engagement Impacts Retention

Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report captures the link between engagement and retention in a nutshell:

“Employees who are engaged are more likely to stay with their organization, reducing overall turnover and the costs associated with it. They feel a stronger bond to their organization’s mission and purpose, making them more effective brand ambassadors. They build stronger relationships with customers, helping their company increase sales and profitability.”

The same report found that only one-third of workers are engaged, which should be a red flag for most organizations. If you’re not confident that the majority of your employees are engaged, this could lead to a costly turnover rate.

How to Improve Employee Engagement

Improving engagement is possible, but it requires a sustained effort. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution that will immediately shift mindsets, organizations should focus on the following three components to improve employee engagement:


Publicly recognize employees for a job well done. When leaders demonstrate that they value an employee’s contribution, it fosters further engagement. Employees also want to stay at a company where they feel valued and appreciated. You can do this by creating a rewards program, hosting monthly or quarterly dinners where employees are recognized for their contributions, or simply thanking your team at the next staff meeting.


Create a culture that encourages, supports, and motivates employees to do their best work. Whether you do this by allowing dogs in the office, having a company-wide ping-pong tournament, or having quarterly team meetings, your culture should remind people why they want to be there. So, while the elements that make up your culture will be as unique as your organization, determining the desired culture will be the responsibility of leadership.


Employees today value education and learning opportunities. They also want to know what opportunities lie ahead. Create clear growth paths and provide the resources that will help people achieve their development goals to keep them engaged as they progress in their careers. This requires more than a single annual review and should include coaching and mentoring to help employees reach their personal career goals.


Retention is a real issue that should be addressed, especially if you already have high turnover rates. Increasing employee engagement can help improve retention and also provide the benefits of better productivity and greater employee satisfaction. Focus on your company culture and take proactive steps to improve engagement, especially among your top talent.


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How Management Styles Affect the Workplace

The strategies and behaviors of a manager can impact the performance and productivity of a team, and therefore the whole organization. Most would agree that managers who effectively leverage employee strengths and rally individuals around team goals will achieve a more favorable performance outcome than those who withhold feedback or provide little support to team members. A person’s management style can also impact overall employee engagement. According to Gallup research, managers account for 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement, and can adversely or positively impact employees’ commitment to their work and the company.

While one kind of management style may work better in certain work environments than others, managers often rely on a mix of styles, depending on the situation and circumstances. Here are four examples of different management styles and how they affect the workplace:

Authoritarian Management Style

An authoritarian management style is one that relies on an individual’s position of authority in the organizational structure. Managers who lead with authority typically assign tasks and deliverables with little room for debate or questioning, which, if not done in the right situations, can lead employees to feel micromanaged, undervalued, and replaceable. Authoritarian management can also negatively impact employee behavior. One research study found that an authoritarian leader in a manufacturing environment contributed to higher incidents of negative employee behavior such as theft, personal internet surfing, and misuse of overtime.

While an authoritarian work style may negatively impact employee productivity and engagement, there are times when it is necessary. Environments that frequently deal with emergencies or equipment failures—for example, hospital emergency rooms or power plant facilities—require strict adherence to management directives. In those environments, an authoritarian style can help ensure staff consistently follow required procedures and protocol.

Laissez-Faire Management Style

At the other end of the spectrum is one style that is far more hands-off. A leader who employs the laissez-faire management style empowers employees and trusts that they have the adequate skills, knowledge, and judgment to execute goals without much direct oversight. Self-reliant teams and individuals who prefer to work with a lot of freedom typically respond well to this type of leader.

While this management style leaves a lot of leeway for employees to be creative, collaborate, and take risks, it can also have a negative impact in the workplace when used inconsistently or in an environment where teams need close supervision. Employees who are new to their role or accustomed to more hands-on management may feel abandoned and unsupported by a manager using a laissez-faire approach.

Coaching Management Style

A coaching management style focuses more on employee learning and creating opportunities for individuals to perform to their full potential. Leaders who coach their employees to improve their performance provide necessary support, encouragement, and guidance. Leaders that act as coaches use their one-on-one time with employees to give praise, deliver feedback, and brainstorm ways to improve, which can help employees develop a sense of trust and loyalty.

While this style is very beneficial, it comes with its own unique set of challenges. Leaders need to manage day-to-day operations, which can sometimes limit opportunities and time for coaching. It’s a fantastic way to manage, if you are intentional about it! Also, keep in mind that coaching employees requires first making a connection with employees, so that the coaching isn’t confused with criticism or condescension.

Collaborative Management Style

A collaborative management style focuses on encouraging the free exchange of ideas within and between teams. Since collaboration in the workplace can have many positive benefits, including increased innovation and the break down of organizational silos, a collaborative management style can be invaluable to helping to build a high-performance culture and a workforce that embraces change. A collaborative manager listens to employees’ ideas and suggestions before making a final decision independently, but also relies on consensus decision-making, which gives employees a voice of influence and a sense of empowerment.

While a collaborative management style can bring employees together and help to establish a strong sense of team in the workplace, it can also sometimes lengthen the time it takes to make decisions. This style may even negatively impact productivity during times of crisis when quick, decisive leadership from one individual may be more appropriate.

Depending on the workplace culture, company goals, and the roles and experience of employees, the use of different combinations of management styles can be effective at different times. Leaders can be most effective when they understand that they can employ a unique mix of styles to use in a range of scenarios in the workplace. A good first step in helping to expand leaders’ knowledge and skills is leadership development that helps them discover the many ways they can motivate, coach, and support employees to perform to their maximum potential.


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7 Employee Development Areas the C-Suite Needs to Prioritize



Today’s business challenges compel organizations to identify new, more creative ways to enhance shareholder value and the customer experience. As a member of the C-suite, you bear considerable responsibility for building a productive workforce and high-performance culture. Moreover, you want that accountability to go beyond the C-suite and filter through the rest of the organization. In the PWC 2017 CEO Survey on Global Talent, 77 percent of CEOs expressed concern about the availability of core competencies such as creativity and innovation among their workforces. You don’t have to be among them. A focus on the development of seven core competencies can ensure you are building a workforce that possesses the skills you need for short- and long-term success.

1. Teamwork and Collaboration

You probably already recognize that collaboration among employees yields high idea generation and more efficient problem-solving. Tools such as Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud technology provide more seamless ways for employees to collaborate and leverage each other’s strengths. Other solutions that will drive productive teamwork throughout your organization and go beyond technology include training initiatives that help you identify and duplicate the qualities of your existing high-performance teams. Furthermore, you can support employee teamwork and collaboration by building a culture that not only places value on effective teamwork, but also trains employees to be better problem-solvers and communicators within a team environment.

2. Ethics and Integrity

A recent study of ethical trends among CEOs noted increased public scrutiny of C-suite executives and their ethical (or not) behavior. You want your employees and your customers to know that you are committed to doing the right thing, whether it’s in how you approach new business opportunities or how you treat employees. Therefore, ethics and integrity should be woven into your culture and reinforced with coaching and training that helps every individual understand your commitment to ethical behavior.


3.  Adaptability

In today’s ever-changing business landscape, individuals who can shift their behaviors and mindset to align with changes in work culture and environment are more valuable than ever. As your organization grows, your systems and processes will advance in complexity as well. You need your workforce to not only adapt to those changes but in some cases lead the change. As new technologies such as big data, AI, and robotics continue to change the way people work and interact, your workforce will benefit from tailored employee development experiences that will strengthen their change management capabilities and provide the tools needed to adapt to shifts in their work environment.

4. Innovation and Continuous Learning

Organizational growth is the outcome of innovation and a commitment to doing things faster, more efficiently, and with greater value to the customer. When a business challenge requires an innovative solution, you expect employees to consider new processes or technology and be willing to step into the unfamiliar. But can innovation and creative thinking be taught? The answer is yes—with the right tools and environment, you can transform your workforce into a powerful hub for innovation.

5. Communication

The perennial employee development challenge is how to help managers and employees communicate better, with greater clarity, honesty, and effectiveness. Individuals can become better performers if they know how to actively listen to understand colleagues and customers better. Also, people managers need to develop strong communication skills in order to convey performance expectations and solicit and deliver feedback effectively. As a leadership team, you can make communication skills training a key component of your employee development efforts.


6. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence 2.0 co-author Travis Bradberry found that 90 percent of high performers exhibit high emotional intelligence. You may have seen within your own workforce how individuals with a high EQ (emotional quotient) are able to overcome difficult personalities, and seem to effortlessly guide the behavior of others without ruffling feathers or aggravating egos. These are the types of behaviors that employees can learn to emulate as they engage in activities that challenge them to practice empathy and patience with coworkers.

7. Leadership

You are likely already aware that perhaps the single most important employee development area that supports organizational capability is effective leadership. Strong leaders empower others to be effective collaborators, communicators, and decision-makers, which will, in turn, provide you with a competitive advantage in times of growth and change. When you partner with HR and a trusted leadership development partner, you can provide leadership development experiences and training that will help to build strong leaders at every level of the organization.


Use Experiential Learning to Address Key Areas of Employee Development

These seven employee development areas can be targeted through a practical competency framework, and aligned with an experiential training program that will help individuals learn by doing. Strong leaders aren’t created by accident but through relevant experiences delivered in a context that encourages learning and further development. With experiential training, your employees engage in employee development that drives lasting behavior change and sets the organization on a course for success and further growth.


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Creating a Culture of Collaboration: 5 Strategies To Help You Do So

Having a culture of collaboration helps organizations maximize employee knowledge and capabilities. Ideas and information spread more easily when employees communicate and collaborate across functional and departmental lines, which can have a positive impact on company performance. A study conducted by the Institute for Corporate Productivity found that companies with a collaborative culture are 5.5 times more likely to be high-performing than companies that don’t have one.

Creating a culture of collaboration can be a struggle for companies because of unclear expectations, lack of follow-through, or employees that may not have the skill or desire to collaborate. Here are five strategies that can help to overcome those challenges and learn how to transform your culture to be more collaborative:

1. Communicate a Clear Vision

Collaboration can look different from company to company, so it makes sense to establish your desired behaviors and attributes and what the organization will look like once a collaborative culture has taken hold. The vision for a collaborative culture needs to be communicated broadly to employees and constantly reinforced so that it doesn’t become just a “flavor of the month.” A clear vision that cascades from senior leadership helps employees see a line of sight to the end goal, allowing them to build commitment as the organization moves closer to realizing the vision.

2. Hire and Develop Collaborative Leaders

Like any important company objective, building a collaborative culture requires the buy-in and support of company leaders. Without leaders to carry the company vision, efforts to build a culture of collaboration are likely to suffer. Some ways to gain leadership support include:

  • Attracting and hiring leaders who have a collaborative management style, a strong commitment to teamwork and resource-sharing, and the ability to encourage collaboration in their teams.
  • Implementing a leadership training and development program that teaches them how to communicate expectations, model collaborative behavior through their example, and coach others to improve.
  • Recognizing and rewarding leaders who demonstrate a strong commitment to the company’s vision for a collaborative work culture.

3. Create Opportunities for Collaboration

Collaboration can’t happen if employees aren’t in situations where they need to reach across team lines to accomplish their goals. Joint team projects, cross-functional focus groups, and company chat rooms built around a common company objective are examples of ways to bring teams together so they can build shared experiences and benefit from each other’s ideas and capabilities. Experiential learning, where employees learn by doing, can also help individuals learn and practice the behaviors they can use on a daily basis to be more collaborative. Not everyone will be comfortable collaborating at first, so it might be necessary to provide training that encourages them to do so and equips them with the skills they need to succeed in the new culture.

4. Leverage Social Collaboration Tools

In the digital age, internal social networks and cloud-based tools can be instrumental in helping employees collaborate. Collaboration is no longer limited to a group of people in a conference room or on a conference call. A survey of business professionals found that 83 percent said they depend on technology to collaborate, while 82 percent said the loss of collaboration technology would negatively impact them. Collaboration tools can also help to bring teams together that work in different geographies and time zones, breaking down barriers that might previously have prevented individuals from communicating frequently.

5. Reinforce and Revisit

Creating a culture of collaboration, like any important company initiative, doesn’t happen overnight, especially if the organization has historically been divided into silos and is not used to working collaboratively. Continuous monitoring and reinforcement are necessary to ensure sustained behavior change and prevent employees from falling back into their old behaviors. Reinforcement activities can be most effective when employees have the tools they need to be effective and leaders are equipped to answer questions, problem-solve, and provide ongoing employee feedback. Examples of reinforcement tools and activities include:

  • Team building activities that encourage individuals to practice their skills, build trust, and reinforce supportive relationships. These can include a major company event off-site or smaller-scale daily activities.
  • Surveys that gauge employees’ views of the company’s culture and how it impacts their behavior.
  • Assessments and content boosts that reinforce what employees have already learned in earlier training.


Conclusion: Creating a Culture of Collaboration Is Possible!

Companies sometimes struggle to foster a culture of collaboration, but it’s not always for lack of trying. Any kind of culture shift is no small undertaking and takes time, patience, and regular reinforcement. With a clear vision, strong leaders, and tools and experiences that support collaborative behaviors, a culture of collaboration is possible.


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How to Promote Critical Thinking in the Workplace

What is critical thinking? Critical thinking is a process of objective evaluation of facts and the consideration of possible solutions to problems. According to the Foundation for Critical Thinking, the concept dates back to early methods of questioning to achieve knowledge practiced by the Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates. Today, organizations value critical thinking as a means to greater innovation and improved problem-solving. In fact, the skill is deemed so important that a survey of leading chief human resource officers conducted by the World Economic Forum found that critical thinking will be the second most important skill in the workplace by 2020, second only to complex problem-solving skills.


Critical thinking is important because it helps individuals and teams more effectively diagnose problems and identify possible solutions that aren’t entirely obvious at first. In addition, critical thinking can help resolve conflicts in the workplace. When individuals consider a range of possible approaches to solving a problem rather than relying on bias or snap judgments, they are more likely to arrive at a better solution.

Ways to Promote Critical Thinking in the Workplace

Some ways you can promote critical thinking in the workplace involve making changes in your workplace culture; others involve training. Here are five ways to encourage critical thinking in your organization.

1. Hire and Promote Critical Thinkers

An important first step to building organizational strength in critical thinking is to hire individuals who are already strong in that area. Behavioral interviewing is an effective way to gauge a candidate’s strengths in critical evaluation and analysis. In addition, when you make critical thinking a desired competency for leadership and promotion, you begin to build a pipeline of talented critical thinkers.

2. Build a Culture of Learning

It’s critical to create an environment where the behaviors related to critical thinking are a natural part of your company culture. Some of the ways you can build and support  a culture that stimulates critical, objective analysis include:

  • Incorporating “lessons learned” discussions after the conclusion of important projects, during which employees have the opportunity to look back on areas where more critical thinking might have been helpful in improving a project’s outcome
  • Creating an environment where tough questions are welcomed and employees are encouraged to talk through alternatives openly
  • Developing a routine or protocol for decision-making that encourages critical-thinking behaviors such as exploring possible solutions to a problem, exploring bias, and considering the consequences of different proposed solutions

3. Avoid Jumping to Conclusions

Another way to promote critical thinking in the workplace is to avoid jumping to conclusions. Instead, approach a problem by first developing a common understanding of the challenges it presents. According to a recent helpful article, these are a few ways to accomplish this:

  • Ask questions about the origin of a problem and how it evolved
  • Define the desired outcome before settling on a solution to the problem
  • Avoid overthinking possible solutions, which can slow down the problem-solving process and undermine disciplined thinking

4. Create Internal Forums

Sometimes the simple act of talking things out can help to spur the critical, objective analysis of problems. When individuals have a forum for addressing and discussing one big problem or a series of related problems, they generate new ideas, share pros and cons of certain solutions, and take advantage of opportunities to collaborate with coworkers on creative solutions to workplace problems.


5. Teach and Train

Leadership development and teamwork-skills training can help build employees’ critical thinking strengths by encouraging a mind-set and skill-set change. As individuals learn new behaviors, they begin to see broader problems and solutions that exist beyond their individual roles and consider the larger picture when looking at a problem.

Experiential learning  works particularly well in promoting critical thinking because learning by doing encourages a critical skill set. The immersive nature of an experiential approach keeps employees fully engaged so that they continually use their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.


Build Critical Thinking in the Whole Organization

Critical thinking is more than a desirable soft skill; it’s a valuable competency that is the basis for innovation and problem-solving. When properly cultivated in the workplace, critical thinking can help individuals and teams overcome challenges and meet business goals. Although there’s no magic bullet that will increase critical thinking in the workplace, a variety of activities in combination can effectively promote it. When you build a culture that promotes and values critical thinking, your organization as a whole will see greater results and outcomes.

What is critical thinking in the workplace?

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5 Strategies to Improve Teamwork and Collaboration At Work

Teamwork and collaboration positively impact individual and overall company performance. One study found that companies that promote collaborative work activities are five times as likely to be high-performing as those that don’t. Collaboration within and between teams ensures that information, time, and other resources are shared for the benefit of everyone involved. When individuals collaborate, each person has an opportunity to contribute their best ideas and efforts, ultimately making each team more productive. Here are five strategies to increase teamwork and collaboration in your organization.

Promote Frequent Communication

For any team to function properly and work productively with other teams, frequent communication is a necessity. Frequent communication helps to answer individual questions, overcome obstacles, and resolve conflicts. It also reduces the potential for confusion and duplicated efforts. Some of the ways you can ensure frequent communication in support of collaboration and teamwork include:

  • Establishing different forums for employees to communicate and share ideas, including in-person meetings, brainstorming sessions, and email or other virtual communication means
  • Providing interpersonal communication skills training to help employees at all levels learn how to achieve complete and accurate understanding when communicating with others
  • Offering training that helps leaders solidify their ability to manage internal communications within departments and teams and build skills that will help them develop their leadership presence

Ensure Leadership Support

To achieve any kind of change in the workforce, company leaders must be enthusiastic champions of the effort to do so. Company leaders set the tone for teamwork and collaboration through their own example and by delivering clear expectations and feedback to the individuals on their team. When leaders reach across functional lines to share information and resources and recognize those on their team who also collaborate well with others, other members of the team will be more likely to engage in activities that support positive team functioning.

Leverage Collaboration Technology

Many digital solutions facilitate easier and more streamlined collaboration between individuals, no matter where they’re based. As new platforms and solutions become available, employees increasingly rely on collaboration technology to make progress on projects, get input on next steps, and share ideas to boost creativity. In fact, an Alfresco survey found that 83 percent of professionals depend on technology to collaborate, and 82 percent said they would be impacted by the loss of it. Examples of collaboration technology include:

  • Internal social networks that improve communication and information-sharing among the workforce
  • Project management software that includes file-sharing and chat capability.
  • Virtual whiteboard platforms

Develop Collaboration and Teamwork Skills

Collaboration doesn’t always come naturally to everyone. Therefore, the best way to increase collaborative behavior in the workplace is to teach employees what successful teamwork looks like and what actions they can take to support it. When people understand all the benefits of effective teamwork, they’re more likely to develop a collaborative mindset and engage in desired behaviors. Teamwork and collaboration training teaches employees how to:

  • Productively share resources, assign tasks, and maintain quality standards
  • Communicate effectively and frequently with team members
  • Build team focus on objectives and their outcomes

Reinforce Collaborative Behavior

Any behavior you’re trying to establish in the workplace will require regular reinforcement over time so that individuals don’t revert to old ways of doing things. When you reinforce collaborative behavior, there is less opportunity for silos to form, and the organization is able to develop a culture of openness and transparency. Some of the key ways you can reinforce collaborative behavior include:

  • Tying promotion and developmental opportunities to collaborative behavior
  • Leveraging training reinforcement tools, such as assessments, quizzes, and mobile boost learning, to help employees retain newly learned collaboration knowledge and behaviors
  • Recognizing and rewarding individuals who practice and promote collaboration


Conclusion: Implement These Strategies to Improve Teamwork and Collaboration

Teamwork and collaboration in the workplace don’t happen on their own; they must be cultivated. When individuals have support from leaders and understand how they can work collaboratively, silos break down and teams become more productive. You can make it easier for leaders to cultivate teamwork and collaboration at work through corporate culture, training and development, coaching, and so on.

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What Is Coaching in the Workplace and How To Do It In-Person and Online

It is probably not hard to believe that the top five single factors that cause bad days at work include: a lack of help and support from leadership, negative coworkers, lack of praise or recognition, uncertainty about the organization’s vision and strategy, and busyness/high workload. Fortunately, a leader who effectively coaches their direct reports can positively influence and mitigate all of these factors if willing, aware, and able.

This is especially important in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environment, such as what is currently being experienced all over the world. Fortunately, there are a few best practices leaders can adopt to begin coaching employees in the workplace, whether that is in-person or virtually.


What Is Coaching in the Workplace?

Coaching in the workplace is when a leader addresses performance objectives and helps unleash the potential within a direct report. According to Harvard Business Review, coaching provides an opportunity to act as a sounding board, facilitate transitions, and address derailing behavior. Rather than traditional performance management systems, coaching allows leaders to communicate immediate changes or actions to be taken by employees that can improve the performance of the individual, team, and organization.


3 Steps to Coaching in the Workplace

Now that we have defined what coaching is, let’s discuss how to coach employees in the workplace. Leaders who follow the steps that follow will be able to not only improve short-term results, but improve engagement, inspire loyalty, and encourage future growth and improvement.

Step 1: Model the Behaviors You Want to See In Your Employees

An important initial step to effective coaching is showing individuals what great performance looks like. It’s one thing to tell people how to behave, but another to show them through your behavior. Leaders who “walk the walk” show through their actions how to adapt to change, how to incorporate new processes or behaviors into daily work life, and how to be a reliable member of the team. Ultimately, employees are more likely to be receptive to coaching when they have leaders who live the expected and required values and behaviors every day.


Step 2: Coach Employees In-the-Moment

Coaching is more than merely giving feedback or telling people what to do. Effectively coaching others requires taking an approach that ensures the feedback will be heard, accepted, and acted upon. Great coaches take the time to connect with the people they’re coaching, carefully observe their behavior, and offer new ideas that help individuals make the jump from good to great. Coaching must always be delivered in the right context and at the right time. If it’s not, the coaching is likely to be rejected or ignored.

Many of today’s employees crave in-the-moment feedback and words of affirmation that will help them succeed in day-to-day activities. When employees only hear feedback or get direction during an annual or semi-annual review, it happens after the fact and cannot be as easily worked out with the help of their leader. Conversely, when you provide coaching in the moment – for example, helping someone with a client negotiation as it is happening – the person can immediately apply the feedback to ensure a better outcome.

Now, the best coaches communicate in a way that encourages people to remain open to coaching and willing to take action based on feedback, regardless of whether it happens face-to-face or through a screen. Bear in mind that when coaching, how you communicate feedback will be just as important as what your feedback is. For example, if you need to have a difficult coachable moment with an employee, set up time to do so in private, away from the eyes and ears of colleagues. Then when that time arrives, follow the C.O.A.C.H. framework:


Connect and Communicate: Establish relationships and create connections before coaching so it can be conducted authentically and genuinely.

    • Online Coaching Tip: In the world of remote work, maintaining connection is more important than ever. For those you lead, find creative ways online to stay connected so you always have a relationship status that has “permission to coach.” Impromptu phone calls, notes, and caring questions help demonstrate that you care.


Observe: Always observe and ask probing questions before diagnosing and advising.

    • Online Coaching Tip: This is where most coaching breaks down, so to combat this leaders must be intentional about creating context where they can see team members performing. This requires forethought and making this explicit to the team member otherwise they will default to the leader. As an example; sales leaders need to be deliberate in creating a context to be on calls with their reps where the rep is owning the entire call and not relying on the leader to carry the conversation.


Assess: Gain an understanding of the actual performance of the individual versus the expectation you, or the organization, has of them.

    • Online Coaching Tip: Leaders generally default to one of two extremes, both of which break down learning. The first is that they overly weight context for the reason for poor performance and do not assess team members against what was possible for them to achieve. The other is that they assess team members against an abstract standard that is not possible in context. Accurate assessment is based on critically thinking through what performance was possible for the individual and holding them to that level. Only once they achieve that, then leaders can raise the bar.


Clarify: Clearly distinguish the gap between the expectation and an employees actual performance so they know exactly what to work on.

    • Online Coaching Tip: As leaders we often draw from a deeper well of experience and mental models that allows us to see the competency gap clearly. It can be easy to assume communicating the gap will make it clear to others, but this is rarely the case as they lack the context and framework that we have in our positions. Therefore, take the time to ensure that those you are coaching understand the gap (remember, this often takes longer than you think!). Ensure you plan appropriate time and check for clarity by having your team member explain the gap back to you in their own words.


Explain How-To and Encourage Questions: Having concrete actions that they will be supported in implementing is imperative to having coaching translate into better performance. Whether you provide the actions or facilitate them committing to them is situational, the key is that they are explicit, mutually understood and have a time frame for completion. Mutually agreeing to the anticipated results of doing these steps and encouraging them to initiate with you for support in achieving the outcome is also critical so that they don’t become a check the box exercise but rather a collaboration to improve their results.

    • Online Coaching Tip: In an era of zoom fatigue, leaders face a dilemma in that the best time to coach is immediately after the performance but the mental space to do all 5 steps in the coaching process well requires mental and emotional energy. When faced with this dilemma consider breaking your coaching into two parts. This first happens immediately after the observed performance and deals with assess and clarify. Then ask the person to think about how to improve and commit to giving it thought yourself. At this point, schedule the second part within 48 hours to provide any additional clarity and then tackle how to do it. 


Step 3: Require Action and Results

Coaching is only effective if it results in actual behavior change. You can model and coach all day, but there comes a point when you’ll need to hold individuals accountable for performance outcomes and results. At this stage, the coach needs to require individuals to take the necessary actions to meet performance expectations. This requires ensuring accountability by providing a timetable for reaching specific milestones and by establishing regular checkpoints to review and discuss progress.


Conclusion: Training Leaders to Be Great Coaches Is a Worthwhile Investment

Coaching is a powerful leadership strategy and yet research states that “only about two in 10 managers intuitively understand how to engage employees, develop their strengths and set clear expectations through everyday conversations. In effect, only about two in 10 managers instinctively know how to coach.” What this means is additional training may be needed to equip leaders with the skills, tools, and behaviors they need to start coaching employees effectively. Not to worry though, 86% of companies feel that they recouped the investment they made into coaching plus more on top.

Wondering what a partnership with the Eagle's
Flight team could mean for your training and
development goals?

The Rise of the Employee Experience

A Brief Introduction

Retaining and attracting top talent is quickly rising to the top of financial services organizations priority lists for the coming year and beyond. This may be in part due to the fact that an astounding report by ServiceNow showed that only 28% of Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) in the financial services industry believe that their workforce meets business needs. This is compared to 42% of CHROs in other industries.

If you’re feeling the weight of this pressing issue in your organization, start here with our eBook,

Retaining and attracting top talent is quickly rising to the top of financial services organizations priority lists for the coming year and beyond. This may be in part due to the fact that an astounding report by ServiceNow showed that only 28% of Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) in the financial services industry believe that their workforce meets business needs. This is compared to 42% of CHROs in other industries.

If you’re feeling the weight of this pressing issue in your organization, start here with our eBook,

Retaining and attracting top talent is quickly rising to the top of financial services organizations priority lists for the coming year and beyond. This may be in part due to the fact that an astounding report by ServiceNow showed that only 28% of Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) in the financial services industry believe that their workforce meets business needs. This is compared to 42% of CHROs in other industries.

If you’re feeling the weight of this pressing issue in your organization, start here with our eBook,

Retaining and attracting top talent is quickly rising to the top of financial services organizations priority lists for the coming year and beyond. This may be in part due to the fact that an astounding report by ServiceNow showed that only 28% of Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) in the financial services industry believe that their workforce meets business needs. This is compared to 42% of CHROs in other industries.

If you’re feeling the weight of this pressing issue in your organization, start here with our eBook,

Retaining and attracting top talent is quickly rising to the top of financial services organizations priority lists for the coming year and beyond. This may be in part due to the fact that an astounding report by ServiceNow showed that only 28% of Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) in the financial services industry believe that their workforce meets business needs. This is compared to 42% of CHROs in other industries.

If you’re feeling the weight of this pressing issue in your organization, start here with our eBook,

Wondering what a partnership with the Eagle's
Flight team could mean for your training and
development goals?

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