Exceptional circumstances like the Covid-19 pandemic underline the vital link between effective collaboration and long-term commercial success. Especially in uncertain times, organizations must aggregate experts with multi-faceted and unique outlooks to remedy emotional and convoluted issues with long-term implications. The variety of experiences enables the group to perceive opportunities and risk differently to develop unique and adaptable solutions to steadily emerging problems.

Anxiety tends to suppress people’s appetite for risk, according to research. Consequently, they are likely to stick to conventional solutions, opting for answers that have been successful in the past. This behavior is a phenomenon that researchers refer to as “threat rigidity.” This likelihood to attempt to oversee everything that happens can also accompany a go-it-alone mentality. Subsequently, this can threaten effective collaboration across an organization. On the other hand, collaboration can increase the likelihood of sustainable commercial success, according to research on the 2008 financial crisis. Below, we propose seven actions that leaders can leverage to encourage collaboration.

We measured and gathered data on financial performance and collaboration across several professional, economic, and health institutions over ten years.

Faced with uncertain situations, very collaborative people adapted their approach to executing work and developing business. Why did they work like this? Furthermore, they widened their network across various industries and also chose to collaborate with more people. Essentially, they were happy to contribute to others’ projects.

As a result of their self-interested behavior, their network diminished. So here is some advice for how leaders can promote collaboration:

Encourage simple questions and stimulating activities. McKinsey referred to this as an “obligation to dissent.” Thus, people are expected and encouraged to criticize each other’s positions and ideas. This environment helps that nobody feels stupid by challenging a teammate’s position from a different perspective.

Lookout for withholding behaviors. Be creative with the data available to you, especially those that reveal behavioral patterns in your organization. For example, virtually every leader we have partnered with had no idea that data quality at their disposal could reveal collaboration patterns. For instance, project management databases can monitor product development or grant funding, CRM applications can display sales pipelines.

Stay connected with the front lines. Establish contact with those that work further under you, so you have a clear idea of their actions and line of thought, primarily when people work remotely. Direct interactions like this can help leaders better understand how employees are faring, spot areas where the tendency for go-it-alone behaviors may arise, and create relationships between people to support each other more effectively.

Constantly emphasize the organization’s goals and vision. The belief that their roles are part of a bigger picture encourages people to imbibe the spirit of teamwork—to be more disposed to working collectively. In addition, clearly understanding the business goals helps employees see how their input contributes to—but neither completely satisfies—the intricate goals of the business.

Leaders must be able to douse tension amongst employees and boost their confidence to collaborate with their colleagues. Therefore, even if your message remains the same, you need to reinforce it because the world is constantly changing. Remind your team that the initial goal still stands.

Encourage team members to analyze their preferred style of working, involving the team leaders as well. When under stress, there is a tendency for you to retreat to familiar ways. So, it’s crucial that you reflect on the behaviors that come naturally to you. For example, when faced with a significant challenge, are you more likely to talk to a colleague and brainstorm or attempt to hold back and go it alone? Once team members become more acquainted with their natural styles, they can begin to work out how to adapt those behaviors to collaborate more effectively as a group.

Instead of attempting to alter your natural tendencies, concentrate instead on intentionally adapting your behavior to improve collaboration. Being patient and honest with your team boosts team members’ trust and confidence in each other’s ability by outlining their skills, pointing out ways their expertise can further the team’s goals, and then widely spreading success stories of teamwork. However, exercise restraints by not overdoing it with several groups in one go.

If you see yourself as more of a solo worker, you can use that attribute to improve teamwork by helping propel execution. For example, we carried out a study on Sameer, a finance director at a software company. He was widely known as a “teamwork tsar” because he had a knack for spotting situations where working as a team or working alone was more effective. His go-it-alone attitude acts like a critical counterweight that helps the team stay on track of their goals when others seek collaborative solutions that would further stray the team from their objectives.

Oversee collaborative teams and leaders. Unfortunately, many leaders sabotage their agenda about the essence of collaboration when they reserve praise for individuals rather than the team when they hit a milestone or work extra hours. While you should note individual excellence, don’t make the mistake of disregarding the role of the team in aiding the individual’s success, primarily when the members work remotely.

Instead, leaders should reinforce supporting employees by highlighting family members’ role in assisting workers’ productivity.

Along the way, leaders should analyze and address organizational structures such as incentive and compensation systems and recruitment procedures to check if they encourage or dissuade collaboration. At the same time, they will likely have to hold it off until the crisis is averted. Regardless, these seven strategies can go a long way. By encouraging cross-silo collaboration, your organization is likelier to overcome these uncertain times and experience growth once it passes.