6 Tips that Will Help You Succeed on a Cross-functional Team

When you collaborate with the same team every day, you can fall into an easy rhythm that helps propel projects forward. But, when you’re on a cross-functional team—or a team where you’ll need to work with teams other than your own—there are a few new challenges that can throw a wrench into your typical methods of collaboration. This can expose you to exciting new ideas, improve your interpersonal skills, and give you experience in a wider range of projects. If you want to succeed on a cross-functional team, put these 6 tips to use.

1. Proactively Get to Know People Outside of Your Own Team: Whether you’ve just started a new job or just switched to a team that will require you to work on cross-functional projects for the first time, don’t wait until the project starts to get to know people. You can work more easily with people you know, so make it your mission to proactively meet people outside of your direct team before projects begin. Have lunch together, grab a coffee, invite them to your team’s next happy hour, or simply reach out in a Slack chat. Once you’re paired up on a project, you’ll already have a baseline of knowledge that will make communication and collaboration a lot easier.

2. Set Up Regular Check-Ins and Purposeful Meetings: The key to effective collaboration—with your own team and as part of a cross-functional team—is open and regular communication. This is why it’s so important to set up regular check-ins and purposeful meetings once you start working with teams outside of your own. It’s easy to get lost in your own project load and responsibilities and let too much time slip away before getting together and sharing progress updates or having important conversations that help you move forward. That being said, you don’t want to bog other teams down with unnecessary meetings. Make sure you’re only having meetings that are purposeful and have a clear benefit to project progress. Otherwise, short project check-ins are all that are needed to keep the project on track!

3. Share Project Progress With Outside Stakeholders for Total Accountability: While you should share your project progress with the people and teams you’re collaborating with, you should also consider sending those same project updates to any outside stakeholders who have a vested interest in the project. This will promote total accountability for both yourself and the people you’re collaborating with, and will ensure nothing important slips through the cracks and results in a “who done it?” investigation to discover where things when wrong.

4. Understand Other People’s Deadlines and Priorities: While your first priority may be this project, you have to understand that being a part of a cross-functional team means you’re working with people and teams whose priorities won’t always align with yours. They may have a more important or more urgent deadline that’s delaying their progress on the project you’re collaborating on. This is why it’s so essential to communicate your priorities and make sure they communicate theirs while you’re planning projects out. Keep each other updated on any priority adjustments and work together to plan around obstacles and reach the project finish line on schedule.

5. Respect Experience and Opinions that Don’t Mirror Your Own: When you’re collaborating with a team for a long period of time, your opinions and experience may start to mesh and align more closely than when you’re working on a cross-functional team. That’s why it’s so important to respect experience and opinions that don’t mirror your own. Give your collaborators room to explain their perspective, relate their experience to you, and share their opinions. Remember, these projects work best because you’re able to leverage your unique talents and they can do the same to create superior results.

6. Keep the Common Goal in Mind: At the end of the day, you’re all working towards a common goal. This makes the experience more gratifying than it would be otherwise and allows everyone to think more strategically, collaborate more effectively, and put in equal effort to achieve the desired result.

Want to succeed as part of a cross-functional team? These 6 tips will help you do that and you’ll become a master of professional partnerships in no time. Remember, this cross-functional team experience allows you to work with people across a wider variety of groups and skill sets so you can learn and grow more from each experience.