Collaboration: 3 Tips to Facilitate a Strong Team


Think of the best team that you have been a part of either at work, in school or in your community. You might find that it had some of the following attributes:

  • Cohesion, collaborative spirit, shared vision, commitment, openness, supportive, respectful, trust
  • Diversity of expertise, intellect, contributing members, real-authentic contributions, balanced workload
  • Leadership, non-hierarchical, non-judgmental, participative
  • Fun, passion, creativity, making a difference

What can you do to facilitate this kind of team?collaboration graphic

1. Establish ground rules at the first meet-up.

Ask the team: How will we work together? What does mutual respect look like to you? What do we want the team to be like? Document the answers and have it on a flip chart – and bring it to each meeting.

If people start to divert, review the rules and ask, “Are we adhering to these rules?” Have audience-appropriate ways to hold each other accountable, whether it’s through a code word, a song, or just a regular rule check-in.

2. Set the tone for positivity.

Note that you are open to all ideas, and reiterate what you are working towards. Borrow from Appreciative Inquiry, and phrase questions and comments in the positive. Rather than asking what isn’t working, find out what is working well and how to use that as a model to expand the successes.

Appreciative Inquiry is the art and practice of asking unconditional positive questions that strengthen a system’s capacity to apprehend, anticipate, and heighten positive potential.

When talking about problems, ask what might be improved, and what you’ve learned from the challenges. If negativity arises, have ways to break the pattern. Reset by taking a break, using humor, or going back to the ground rules.

3. Don’t assume what people need or mean.

Listen, listen, listen…and ask questions. Be aware of your own lens and personal perspective, which may appear to others as prejudices and personal biases. Consider the words of your team members; the words you may be using might be from your lens.

Be aware of loaded language labels like “cancer victim” versus “survivor”. If conflict arises over language, surface those issues and discuss them. Resistance to ideas may come from ours or others own lens or unconscious judgements that are made. Cultivate your active listening skills to be a better team member and facilitator.

In the words of Henry Ford, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

Samueli Institute facilitates team cohesion and breakthrough change in much of its consulting work including the Chronic Pain Breakthrough Collaborative, Hospice and Palliative Care Breakthrough Collaborative, and community change through the Well Community Project. These efforts allow for cross-learning, networking, rapid change, and improvements to the bottom line.