In the era of globalization and centralization, we are more and more likely to be working on a cross-functional team made up of people from different departments, geographies or subsidiaries across the organization.
Cross-functional teams are helpful and efficient because it is hard to implement long-lasting change if only one department is on board. In the time of transition, we really need to collaborate. But these teams can sometimes be annoying. People come to the team with different backgrounds, mindsets, experience, and expectations. It is very easy to misunderstand each other and sometimes you can rub each other the wrong way.
Here are 3 strategies to ensure that the experience working on a cross-functional team is positive and a good networking and professional growth opportunity rather than a burden for the team members.
- Get to know your team members personally, not just as a group
Try to find the one on one time whether it’s coffees, lunches, or a walk outside after one of your meetings. For virtual teams, one to one phone call may be helpful. The more of a human connection you have to them, the harder it is for them to treat you like an obstacle or disregard your perspective. Similarly, even if they seem ill-informed or uncooperative, they may have valid reasons for their viewpoint and you can learn more about what makes them tick. It always helps when you’re able to be more of us and less of them, and building one on one connections makes that happen.
- Understand why they are there
That means asking questions until you grasp why their department is involved in the initiative and what it as an entity hopes to accomplish, and also what their personal motivations and incentives are. Will the success of the project help them advance an initiative they care about? Maybe make them look good in the eyes of their boss? Or help them get more budgetary authority? When you understand someone’s motivations and drivers, it helps you make smarter and more effective arguments in the language they can relate to.
- Leverage the benefits of being on a cross-functional team
You can really leverage the benefits of being on a cross-functional team if you make an effort to learn from your colleagues, not just about the project at hand but about the company as a whole. Even for smart and savvy professionals, it can sometimes be hard to wrap your arms around all the aspects of what your company is doing. Having that information, knowing what each department or division is working on, prioritizing, which new projects are incubating, can be invaluable information because it gives you a sense of the big picture and how your work fits into it.
We are able to make connections that other people can’t see because they don’t have all the puzzle pieces. Those insights can lead to innovation and making connections that mark you as knowledgeable and an up-and-comer in the company. Working elbow to elbow with colleagues across your company can be a drag sometimes because you have different perspectives and goals, but seen in the right light, it’s also a massive opportunity to make connections and unveil insights that most others don’t have access to. That could be your competitive advantage.
Author: Kasia Bialek