Leadership: Building Collaborative Workplace Cultures

How to Build Collaborative Workplace Cultures: Open-Minded | Active Listening | Empathy | Doubt | Challenge Prejudices

As a leader, what can you do to build effective and collaborative workplace cultures? You need to model the way. The first step is to use your interpersonal skills to enhance communication and establish relationships with people at all levels across the organization.

You can do this by being open-minded and empathetic, practicing active listening, and giving others the benefit of the doubt. You may also need to challenge your own prejudices and preconceived notions. Below are some practical steps you can take to move forward.

Practical Steps on How to Build Collaborative Workplace Cultures

1. Be Open-Minded

Everyone is different, and they may have different views and opinions than you. Having an open mind and welcoming different views will allow your relationships to grow and become more meaningful. Ask questions, using a friendly tone and smile, to understand where others are coming from, especially those who may be very different from you. 

2. Practice Active Listening

Actively listening shows that you care. Slow down and let others talk before interjecting about yourself. Besides listening to their words, try to read their gestures. Take in their emotions and thoughts, and read between the lines. It’s about being present and focused on not only what they say and do, but also on what they don’t say and do. 

Research reveals that 55 percent of what they are saying can be observed in their body language, 38 percent can be heard in their tone of voice, and only 7 percent comes with their words. So when spending time with someone, watch what they are not saying in words but are communicating nonverbally. Trust bonds are some of the strongest and most crucial when building dynamic, equitable relationships.

3. The Importance of Empathy

Leaders must display empathy, they need to be sensitive to what, how, and why people feel the way they do. Being empathetic is being able to pick up on emotional cues and respond appropriately. Leaders must “emotionally monitor” others on a moment-by-moment basis. When people feel seen, heard, and cared for, that significantly impacts job satisfaction and the employee experience. Here’s what you can do to build empathy.

4. Give Others the Benefit of the Doubt

The mind is negatively oriented, so giving others the benefit of the doubt takes intention and effort. In all situations, assuming positive intent and considering an alternative or generous interpretation of the situation will help you feel a little lighter as you learn to accept others with greater ease. Remember, the next time someone cuts you off when driving, put your generous hat on and ask yourself what might be going on for this person. Perhaps, the other person did not realize the lane was ending. The best practice is always to give others the benefit of the doubt.

5. Challenge Your Prejudices and Preconceived Notions

We all make assumptions and have biased beliefs that prevent us from appreciating what makes others unique. Challenge your preconceived notions and prejudices by focusing on similarities, not differences. Learn to consider other people’s points of view, especially those whose beliefs you don’t share, and start to see the value others bring.

Final Thoughts

Having an open mind allows you to approach the situation with a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. This way, problems become opportunities, assumptions are challenged, and thought-provoking questions come to the fore. 

Related Article:

Collaborative Marketing In The Digital Age: How To Boost Your Brand

Carolyn Stern

Carolyn Stern, the author of THE EMOTIONALLY STRONG LEADER, is the President and CEO of EI Experience, an executive leadership development, and emotional intelligence training firm. She is a certified Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Development Expert, professional speaker, and university professor whose emotional intelligence courses and modules have been adopted by top universities in North America. She has also provided comprehensive training programs to business leaders across the continent in highly regarded corporations encompassing industries such as technology, finance, manufacturing, advertising, education, healthcare, government, and food service. Stern lives and works in Vancouver, British Columbia. You can learn more at

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