Cross-Functional Leadership: Flexibility is the Key

Being an effective cross-functional leader is like being a Swiss Army knife – you need to be versatile, adaptable, and always ready for action. But it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, and sometimes difficult to break through entrenched silos. Let me simplify things for you by sharing my top 5 leadership tactics that have consistently proven to be winners.

  1. Clear Communication. Effective communication can increase team productivity by up to 25% (Source: McKinsey). This involves clearly conveying cross-functional goals, expectations, and feedback. Here are some ways to accomplish this:
    • Set the tone for open communication by being transparent. Don’t hold back on bad news, constructive criticism, or praise. Reinforce the fact that it’s safe to share.
    • Hold regular team meetings. Ensure everyone is engaged in every meeting, even if you’re just asking someone about their upcoming vacation plans.
    • Establish multiple channels of communication. Zoom is great. And Slack, Gchat, or Teams make asynchronous communication for quick questions or comments easy. But don’t forget about asynchronous video tools like Loom or Vidyard, especially when you have remote colleagues across multiple time zones. With async video, a sender can share a screencast to ensure the recipient understands exactly what is being referenced. The sender’s body language and voice inflections in those videos can also go a long way to avoiding any misinterpretations of tone that can easily occur with async text and email. Loom and Vidyard even enable viewers to insert verbal, text, or emoji feedback at specific points in the recording.

    In the end, remember that clear, open communication is the foundation of a successful cross-functional team project. And it’s not just about what you say, but how you say it.

  2. Collaboration. Fostering collaboration can increase team performance by 20% (Source: Institute for Corporate Productivity). It starts with promoting a culture of teamwork and shared goals. Fun cross-functional team activities and events are great and should not be passed up. But here are couple collaboration building tricks that can often be overlooked:
    • Show empathy and negotiate compromises when warranted, especially when one of the functional teams is being stretched by lack of time or required skills.
    • Use “teaching moments” to underscore the importance of cross-functional teamwork and how everyone wins when they encourage and recognize input.
    • Repeat the “cross-functional teamwork” mantra by giving verbal recognition every time the teams work together to produce great results. Repetition will help indoctrinate cross-functional teamwork into the your culture.
    • For complex projects, use collaboration tools like Trello, Asana or Monday to keep the cross-functional team members informed of their duties and timelines. It will help avoid assignements and deadlines that are missed or forgotten went sent via email or chat.
    • And don’t forget about the async Loom or Vidyard video tools mentioned earlier. It can be a fun way to facilitate collaboration.

    Remember, together everyone achieves more. So, create an environment where everyone feels valued and heard.

  3. Leading by Example. It goes without saying that this involves repeatedly setting a positive example for your cross-functional teams. It’s a less common but highly effective leadership approach. Embody the values and behaviors you want to see in your team and that reflect your company’s values as well. Remember, actions speak louder than words. You might be surprised at how well this sets the tone for cross-functional teamwork.
  4. Empowerment. By empowering your cross-functional team members, you can increase job satisfaction by 20% (Source: Gallup). When employees are happy, they are more productive, more innovative, and less likely to leave. Empowerment involves giving them the autonomy and resources to do their jobs effectively. Provide clear guidelines, use project management tools, establish communication channels and expectations, and then turn them loose to work independently and together as needed to hit goals. Of course, use regular meetings and status checkups to determine if/when you need to intervene to identify and resolve blockers so that processes can get back on track.
  5. Continuous Learning. Promoting a culture of continuous learning can increase innovation by 15% (Source: Deloitte). This often-overlooked tactic can significantly boost individual and cross-functional team performance and adaptability. Encourage your teams to take on new challenges and provide them with opportunities for professional development. You might be surprised at how motivational this can be. Tools like Coursera or LinkedIn Learning can provide a wealth of learning resources.

In conclusion, these cross-functional leadership tactics can significantly boost performance and productivity. By implementing these strategies, leaders have seen an average increase of 25% in team productivity and a 20% increase in job satisfaction. So, take time on a daily basis to be a facilitator and you’ll be rewarded.