“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” – Babe Ruth
Anthropology teaches that humans identify most with the group to which they belong. Even in modern times, within a bustling organization it’s easy to default to tribalism and forget that all departments are on the same team. But, your team consists of every department and every person who rolls up under every department head.
As a sales leader, I recommend adopting this mentality immediately with your sales team if you want to achieve greatness. To ignore this reality will limit both your individual goals, as well as your company’s success.
Nothing highlights the necessity for strong cross-departmental relationships as when those relationships, and subsequent communication, break down. The impact is far greater than the relationship itself, and the ramifications reach from pre-sale roles to the post-sale customer experience.
How Cross-Departmental Relationships Break Down
So, what precipitates the decline of interdepartmental relationships, and, more importantly, how can you repair them? And, what outcomes can you expect from improved relationships?
First, let’s discuss the most prevalent relationship erodes. Can you relate to any or all of these? Every company has some deficit in these areas, but identifying your primary issue will help you find the best solution.
- Poor communication – Arguably, the most prevalent fault line occurs within communication gaps between teams. Communication must be a two-way street, or even better, a full roundabout of information and knowledge-sharing.
- Lack of transparency – Transparency and open communication are key to trust, and when those lines are crossed, or altogether missing, disaster strikes. Being vague or misrepresenting the current state breeds misinformation and shatters trust.
- Different goals and agendas – When teams are working towards their own vision without regard for other teams, a battle of wills ensues causing animosity and friction.
- Failure to recognize the human behind the work – It’s easy to become so enthralled in our own tasks, and having our own needs met by other departments, that we fail to recognize the very real people making things happen either behind the scenes or in another timezone.
- Missed or misrepresented expectations – In every aspect of life, missed expectations are the absolute killer of peace, joy, and happiness. In the workplace, this can cause everything from lack of productivity, employee churn, missed revenue numbers, and customer dissatisfaction leading to churn.
Now that we know what’s causing the breakdown, or what to look out for, we can start implementing some best practices.
- Make information sharing a normal and consistent practice. With the numerous communication channels such as Slack, Teams, and other chat extensions, real-time communication has never been more accessible.
- Prioritize communication between teams. Beyond accessibility, make it a priority to routinely share and communicate between teams both formally, as in company round ups, and individually between department heads.
- Listen and respond appropriately to others’ needs. There’s an old phrase, “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” which is to mean what’s good for one is equally good for another. By understanding the needs of others, you’ll be better prepared to serve another and unequivocally reap the rewards of such assistance.
- Practice active listening, ask questions, and bring closure to discussions. Being on a “need-to-know” is an often misunderstood concept, and often misinterpreted to mean, the “need-to-know-about-emergencies-only.” A “need-to-know” should never be less than the most important and relevant topics at hand.
What can you expect if you work for this? Better productivity, greater collaboration, higher efficiency, and higher quality.
- Transparency starts at the top and rolls down. Adopt transparency as part of organization-wide policy.
- Manage triumphs and challenges with the same energy. Pay equal attention, and spend equal energy, celebrating wins as you do in confronting difficult situations.
- Provide access to information. This should include reporting as well as embracing an “open book” culture of behaviors. With nothing to hide, there’s nothing to fear.
What can you expect if you work for this? Greater trust between departments, speed to resolutions, more seamless collaborations.
Unified Goals and Agendas
- Get on the same page. Begin working toward the same goal and understand the rewards of achievement together.
- Establish shared goals across teams. Although teams should have independent goals, creating co-dependent goals between departments can help knit teams together.
- Set milestones and KPIs. Understand what they mean from both macro and micro perspectives. Doing so will facilitate course correction when teams have gotten off track.
- Recognize that priorities may change, and agendas will follow suit. Budgets, planning, and focus may shift to different departments at different growth stages. This is a fact of business we must embrace instead of fight.
What can you expect if you work for this? Stronger organizational vision, greater speed to achievement and success, more employee buy-in on the roadmap to success.
Recognizing the human behind the work
- “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Peter Drucker famously said that. Although strategy is important, a powerful and empowering culture provides a surer path to organizational success.
- Spend time understanding the roles and responsibilities as well as the challenges of your departmental counterparts. Understanding their day-to-day struggles and what motivates them creates space for empathy and compassion.
- Never underestimate the power of the visual. If an illustration is worth a thousand words, being present and visible is worth tenfold. Thanks to technology there are many ways to increase teams’ accessibility to one another through video chat and streaming services.
- Don’t skimp on bonding. Teams are most productive and collaborative when they feel personally bonded to others. Gamify the experience, and as a leader focus on bringing people together.
What can you expect if you work for this? Greater employee satisfaction in their work, higher independent and team productivity, higher rates of effective collaboration, improved trust, and company loyalty.
- Get comfortable with saying or receiving, ”No.” You’ll be happier for it, trust me.
- Be candid and straightforward. Tell it like it is, versus how it could be if only…
- Reinforce optimism with action. Although there’s a very real and important place for optimism, it’s little more than wishful thinking until you follow it up with real actions.
- Commit to what is reasonable and offer regular check-ins ahead of time if things have jumped the rails. Missed expectations will happen, but adjusting proactively not only repairs damage but can improve trust and loyalty. It may even help you get back on track through additional channels of assistance!
What can you expect if you work for this? Interdepartmental trust and integrity, greater collaboration, fewer missed targets while increasing rates of exceeding goals, happier customers, and overall job satisfaction and trustworthy reputation.