effective collaboration

Facilitator toolkit: 9 resources for accommodating different collaboration styles

Reading time: about 8 min


  • Teamwork and collaboration

Collaboration may be a bit of a buzzword right now, but its merit holds its own. The data is clear: if you’re collaborating inefficiently, it’s costing you time and money (and probably lots of it). However, if you’ve successfully harnessed the collaborative power of your team, you’ve likely discovered that effective collaboration truly is a “secret sauce” of sorts. Wondering how to maximize this power? It’s all about facilitation.

Sure, teams can initiate some effective collaboration on their own, but facilitation is an essential piece of the puzzle that is sometimes overlooked. Facilitation adds rigor to collaboration by cementing and celebrating moments of true innovation, recognizing and advancing goal progress, and codifying learning into ongoing best practices. Think about it: collaboration in and of itself is important and useful, but without a means of putting findings and output into action, it’s completely useless. 

In this article, we’ll explore nine facilitator tools for accommodating different collaboration styles. It doesn’t matter if your team has a formal facilitator (typically a leader or manager) or you work cross-functionally. Or, maybe you’re in a flat organization and want to develop better ground-level facilitation skills. Regardless of your unique situation, these resources will prove useful to everyone.

Introducing: The three collaboration styles

It may seem surprising, but autonomous, self-managing teams need facilitators just as much as other teams do. Look at it this way: collaborating effectively isn’t so much a matter of skill as it is a matter of communication and finding understanding. Everyone—even those who share similar skill sets—collaborates differently.

Too many people feel exhausted from having to collaborate in the same way day after day—and this is not just a problem in the United States. The majority of knowledge workers abroad—particularly in the U.K., Australia, and the Netherlands—also feel their collaboration needs aren’t being met, even more so than in the US. It’s clear that as it currently stands, businesses aren’t getting the best from their employees. To find success, today’s businesses must be able to harness the diversity of their different team members to better allocate resources, employ skills, and understand different opinions and viewpoints. They must embrace a variety of collaboration styles and apply them to processes and solutions in order to empower their team members to do their best work. 

We’ve found that digital collaboration impacts individuals differently, depending on their preferred working style and their personality traits. For example, introverted people will collaborate differently than extroverts. Through extensive research, we’ve identified three distinct collaboration styles based on respondents’ preferences:

  1. Expressive collaborators, who like visual collaboration and working in teams.
  2. Relational collaborators, who thrive on human connection. 
  3. Introspective collaborators, who prefer a more thoughtful, deliberate approach to collaboration.

Facilitators should care about bridging gaps between different collaboration styles to ensure everyone is involved, people are aligned, and context is shared. In this way, the process of effective collaboration is just as impactful and significant on the morale and effectiveness of the team as a successful end result.

It may feel overwhelming to bridge the gap between these three unique collaboration styles. Luckily for you, we have tried and true techniques, tools, and frameworks tailored to each of them.

Calculated and organized: Techniques for introspective collaborators

Unsurprisingly, introspective collaborators are more likely to be introverts. These people prefer to collect their thoughts before offering a suggestion. If they are asked on-the-spot questions, they likely won’t offer their best ideas, because they take time to think of impactful contributions. Chances are good that these collaborators experience frustration with hybrid meetings because they don’t always generate progress, and they are generally tailored toward extroverts.

Strategy #1: Create an “agenda for every meeting” culture

Introspective collaborators must have time to think before contributing. Agendas empower them with time to prepare and consider items that will be discussed—even if the meeting itself is geared toward other collaborative styles.

Strategy #2: Assign pre-work

This is the next level of agenda creation. Pre-work calls for ideation before the actual work begins. Even just asking in advance for one aspect of a problem you need to solve can help introspective collaborators feel valued and can add structure to the meeting.

Framework #1: Brainwriting

This brainwriting template meets introspective and expressive collaborators right in the middle for a creative brainstorming session. Yes, a lot of ideas will be generated quickly, but this activity isn’t one that necessarily needs a lot of interaction. It doesn’t require talking, as everything is written down.

Creative and outgoing: Techniques for expressive collaborators

Expressive collaborators like to see ideas sketched out before they can jump into action. Whether it’s graphics, drawings, charts, or just sticky notes, these individuals thrive on visual methods of collaboration. They also need social interaction to do their best work, so they often maintain active social lives, and they require socialization to balance their day. A lack of group cohesion and interaction would be stifling to expressive collaborators.

Tool #1: Timers

Facilitators may struggle finding collaboration methods that work for both introspective and expressive collaborators since they seem like such opposites. Timers are a great tool for both. Utilizing timers in a collaboration session allows expressive collaborators to brainstorm openly and boldly, with the maintained benefit of timeboxing, or short bursts of creativity with cooldowns to align as a team. This method offers more structure for introspective collaborators, but will still empower expressive collaborators to come up with their best ideas.

Tool #2: Voting sessions

Whether you’re utilizing Lucidspark’s dynamic Voting tool or inviting team members to leave an emoji or GIF reactions to their favorite ideas, expressive collaborators like voting because it allows their voice to be heard in a visual medium without getting too far off track. As an added bonus, introspective collaborators are likely to respond to voting sessions favorably, too, since it doesn’t require them to speak up.

Framework #1: Crazy 8s brainstorming

Generate new ideas and appeal to expressive collaborators with a Crazy 8’s brainstorm. Using a timer, challenge your team members to sketch out 8 ideas in 8 minutes. This not only allows you to push past the “safest” ideas you have, but it activates divergent thinking quicker due to the time constraints and the visual aspect of the exercise. Visual thinking forces you to think outside the box, and expressive collaborators thrive on this type of collaboration.

Connected and impactful: Techniques for relational collaborators

Relational collaborators do their best work when it involves meaningful, human interaction. Because of this, they’re often frustrated with remote work due to technical limitations, and they tend to steer away from tasks or projects that are siloed. While they often struggle with an overabundance of collaborative tools, they work well with technology that enables interpersonal teamwork. They frankly find hybrid meetings draining, so they’re likely to avoid them even more than the average employee.

Tool #1: Breakout Boards

Whether they are utilized in a group setting or 1:1 meeting, Breakout Boards provide relational collaborators a break from the grind of hybrid meetings and invite them to connect on a more intimate level. Connection is more likely to lead to ideation breakthroughs for relational collaborators than other collaborator types, so utilizing a tool like this is key to their overall success.

Framework #1: Icebreaker templates

Icebreakers are easy to incorporate because they’re highly adaptable for any group size, and they can be as quick or lengthy as you’d like. They’re also very impactful for relational collaborators. Icebreakers should be tailored to the makeup and personality of your team. Choose silly and creative activities, or focus more on knowledge-sharing or brainstorming-type icebreaker activities that could potentially turn into business insights.

Only have a few short minutes? Play “This or that?” and invite your team members to express their opinion and pick between two items or have them react to certain scenarios with GIPHY reactions.

If you have a larger chunk of time to devote to team-building, share the travel icebreaker template to see where everyone has traveled while discussing team members’ favorite spots to visit or try a handful of one of our other team-building activities.

Regardless of what you have time for, rest assured that any icebreaker activity will speak volumes to your relational collaborators and empower them to do their best work that day.

Strategy #1: Mid-meeting check-ins

Relational collaborators easily get overwhelmed—or they just check out—when hybrid meetings are overloaded with debatably ineffective “engagement activities.” Instead of filling your meetings with a variety of polls, side channel chats, voting sessions, and more, hold a mid-meeting check-in to ensure you’re still on track to achiev the meeting’s goal. Ask attendees how they’re feeling about what’s being discussed. Slowing down like this can reveal if you’re overusing tools and need to simplify, and relational collaborators will appreciate a few moments of genuine connection.

Bridge the gaps between different collaboration styles with Lucidspark

Lucidspark is inherently flexible and malleable enough to fit any mix of styles. Need a messy, infinite canvas to brain dump? We’ve got you covered. Looking for a hub or home base for your activities and daily standups? Look no further. What about a place to host highly structured collaborative sessions that generate high-quality ideas? Yup, we can do that too.

Regardless of the makeup of your team and their collaboration style, Lucidspark offers dynamic features and hundreds of personalizable templates to empower every team member to do their best work—in the way they do it best.

effective collaboration

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About Lucidspark

Lucidspark, a cloud-based virtual whiteboard, is a core component of Lucid Software's Visual Collaboration Suite. This cutting-edge digital canvas brings teams together to brainstorm, collaborate, and consolidate collective thinking into actionable next steps—all in real time. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucidspark.com.

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