Pro Tips: Building a Collaborative Mindset

Hybrid work environments and constant change make collaboration critical to the success of today’s cross-functional teams. So, PMI asked project managers: What steps do you take to build a collaborative mindset across the team—and how does it boost project performance?

Headshot of Danielle Jones Cox

Level the playing field with mutual respect
The first thing I focus on is building trust between each individual team member and myself. Sharing ideas and honest perspectives are usually more forthcoming if there is trust first. We develop team rules and agree that each person’s ideas and opinions are valid and valued. We all agree that no matter how seasoned a colleague is, no idea or opinion is held above another person. As a result, our team has come to understand that some of the best solutions are the least complicated to implement and often get us faster to our end goals. Quite often, these ideas are from the most junior project managers on our team.  

At weekly project meetings, we resolve a problem for a project voted on by the colleagues. This pushes us to focus not just on our own project issues but how our ideas can support others. We began using this strategy in 2020 and 2021, and we basically doubled the percentage of targets met in our project plans compared to our 2018 and 2019 performance reviews.
Danielle Jones Cox, PMP, senior director, public sector modernization division, Office of the Cabinet, Kingston, Jamaica

Headshot of Brian Mossing

Lead by example
It’s about leadership and trust. Make the effort to build and grow your relationships with your team members. Set the example that collaboration is not only acceptable, it’s desirable and the norm for working on your team and in your business.
Brian Mossing, PMP, technical program manager, OM Group Inc., Orlando, Florida, USA

Headshot of Deanna Davies

Channel emotions into a shared force 
Practicing emotional intelligence—both understanding yourself, as well as appreciating what others bring to the table—is imperative when it comes to collaboration. Emotional intelligence gives a leader a strong sense of self-awareness and helps to build confidence. It also helps to foster a strong foundation for teams to work together as they share a sense of empathy, compassion and understanding, and helps to build trust. Once a team has a better understanding and appreciation for one another, conflict resolution becomes more innovative and achievable. Once emotional intelligence becomes part of the team mindset, there is a keen awareness for a sense of inclusion and belonging—two imperative success factors for a team.
Deanna Davies, PMP, project management program professor, St. Lawrence College, Kingston, Ontario, Canada