4 Lessons on Working Together: Quotes on Teamwork and Collaboration from B2B/SaaS Leaders
“I like to think of teamwork as the mindset and collaboration as the action."
There’s no doubt that teamwork and collaboration are important in today’s world—especially at work. They’re a big part of our day-to-day lives. We collaborate with customers, co-workers, business partners, and beyond. We work together to complete projects and achieve company goals. We may even use cliche phrases like “Teamwork makes the dream work” during meetings or on motivational posters.
While we may say we value and rely on collaboration and teamwork, these can be somewhat abstract concepts. We don’t often dive into what these terms actually mean and if we’re doing them well. And it’s quite obvious that there’s been a cultural shift in how we work together.
With that in mind, we asked B2B/SaaS leaders to weigh in and share their unique perspectives surrounding teamwork and collaboration. These key lessons and handy tips will prompt you to think differently about collaboration and help your team work together more efficiently.
Teamwork and collaboration are not the same thing
“Teamwork involves everyone handling their own individual tasks, usually overseen by a manager or leader, to reach a common goal,” Katrina Dalao, content marketing manager at Referral Rock, said. “Collaboration, on the other hand, requires more brainstorming and sharing ideas. Everyone works together to arrive at something new, without a designated leader.”
While “teamwork” and “collaboration” are often used interchangeably, there are some key differences. Teamwork focuses on organizational structure, values, and processes and how you’re individually contributing to a group of people. Collaboration, on the other hand, is when the ideas are actually flowing and people are working together.
“I like to think of teamwork as the mindset and collaboration as the action,” Rebekah Edwards, co-founder and CEO of Clara, said. “A teamwork mindset means it's a priority to interface with your co-workers on a regular basis. Collaboration is the action of doing this—whether to be of help, ask for feedback, or successfully execute a project.”
Both are important and reliant on one another. However, once you start to look at them separately, you can begin to see where there might be issues and challenges. For example, maybe the tools you’re using aren’t allowing your team to effectively communicate (collaboration). On the other hand, maybe there’s a lack of clarity on who is actually responsible for various tasks, which is impacting decision-making (teamwork).
How we work together has changed over time
With emerging technologies and a push toward remote work, collaboration and teamwork have become much more asynchronous even compared to a few years ago.
Asynchronous communication is now the norm
“Before the internet and associated software came onto the scene, teamwork and collaboration had to occur in real time and, more preferably, in the same place,” Rosalee Moschioni, chief of staff at Threads, said. “Over time, software companies have changed the game and built a surplus of tools and ways to connect with our colleagues in real-time, or asynchronously.”
The shift to asynchronous has been happening for a while, but it went full speed ahead when offices had to close down in March 2020 due to the pandemic. And collaboration tools became increasingly important to our daily workflows and processes. Zoom jumped from about 10 million daily meeting participants to about 200 million in 2020. Slack saw a 43% increase in revenue year-over-year between March 2020 and April 2021.
Research from Quantum Workplace shows that 35% of employees are working remotely and 30% are in a hybrid setup (part-time in the office, part-time remote). The conversation surrounding what’s next and what the future of work looks like is still ongoing, but there’s little doubt that asynchronous communication practices, tools, and apps will continue to be a big part of it—even for in-office teams.
“As we start to think about the future of teamwork and collaboration, we'll begin to back away from synchronous, 'always on' communication, and favor more of the asynchronous methods of collaboration, as the world becomes more distributed and remote,” Rosalee said.
Teams are more interactive
“I think that society has become more open in the last 100 years or so to the importance of groups or teamwork, especially when it comes to pedagogy or even to teaching adults,” Robin Nichols, content lead US at 360Learning, said. “Kids now learn to work in groups, and college students are in breakout groups to discuss more than in the past.”
There are lots of benefits to collaborative learning, including exposure to diverse perspectives, increased self-esteem, and building higher-level thinking and communication skills. As we grow, we then carry these collaboration skills and experiences into the workplace, where we’re encouraged to share and brainstorm better ideas more than ever before.
“It is now common to work together on designs in Figma, product specs in Notion and Google Docs, or code and software in CoScreen much before they reach a highly polished stage,” Till Pieper, co-founder and CEO at CoScreen, said. “People are much less afraid to share half-finished content as they have learned that more and earlier collaboration produces better results.”
There’s more focus on inclusion
“I think we also value cooperation and collaboration more in the workplace, and we're more attuned to how to be inclusive of everyone when it comes to workplace collaboration (thinking in particular of DEI initiatives),” Robin said.
According to an Associated Press analysis of 2020 United States census data, the U.S. is more racially diverse than ever, and “no racial or ethnic group dominates for those under age 18.” As our offices continue to become more diverse and social and cultural norms shift, companies have had to collaborate differently to make sure all voices are heard.
In addition, the pandemic has also caused companies to think hard about how to better balance work and life—particularly for women, who are the main caregivers for children and aging relatives.
“The pandemic forced us to find an optimal balance between asynchronous and synchronous workflows and also to balance the unique challenges between personal matters (e.g., child care) with projects at work,” Till said.
In the end, the entire team benefits when everyone has a chance to share their different skills, viewpoints, and experiences.
How to improve teamwork and collaboration at your company
As we continue to move forward, companies should focus on continuing to embrace new technologies and processes that make it easier for teams to work together.
Focus on building relationships
“Collaboration works best when you have a foundation of personal relationships, and allowing your team to have these moments will create more successful collaboration over time,” Rebekah said.
Support opportunities for your team to get to know each other beyond work, even virtually. If you can’t meet in person, host virtual watercooler video chats and “Ask Me Anything” sessions, so co-workers can learn more about each other. You can also use your 1:1s with your team members to go beyond status updates and performance reviews to really get to know them as people.
“I always like asking my team about their thoughts and taking the time to check in, aside from task updates,” Katrina said. “It’s important to foster an open culture where anyone feels they can contribute or get help whenever they need it.”
Create repeatable processes to inspire collaboration
“Start small and create simple, repeatable processes that bake collaboration into a project,” Robin said.
Like most things in a work environment, teamwork and collaboration thrive with structure. Build opportunities for collaboration into your standard processes.
For example, try a standardized review or feedback process with clear deadlines that allows everyone to weigh in on key decisions. Recurring daily check-ins and/or weekly team standup meetings where everyone can share wins and work through problems together are other great options.
“Three things have been most successful to promote collaboration and a culture of teamwork at our agency: 15-minute sprints every Monday morning, a two to three hour IRL [in real life] monthly team meeting, and Slack,” Rebekah said.
The right tools and workflows are crucial to collaboration
“Finding your optimal balance between asynchronous and synchronous workflows and using the optimal tools is the key to healthy and happy teams, especially when being fully distributed,” Till said.
Ultimately, teamwork and collaboration can’t happen without the right tools and workflows in place.