Being productive as an individual means prioritizing tasks because you know how and why they matter. Being productive as a team? A whole different game.

Brian Cervino knows a lot about working with teams. Brian is currently the Product Marketing Manager at Trello, a collaboration tool that organizes projects into boards — perfect for helping set, update, and track a project’s many moving pieces. He’s also a songwriter and producer, and he’s worked with countless bands to help them license their music, organizing the needs of many individuals at once.

In both areas, Brian helps teams move smarter, faster, and more productively. If you’re getting busy for fall, read below for Brian’s advice to maximize your time, foster collaboration, and get the right things done — and then check out his Skillshare class, Productivity & Time Management: Get More Done!

How do you define productive team collaboration?

BC: Successful collaboration means three things: everyone is aligned on achieving a shared vision, there are clear steps to achieve it, and every task is delegated to a specific team member. Plus, clear lines of effective communication. Surprises always come up; productive collaboration boils down to how teams handle them together.

How do “delegation” and “collaboration” work together to increase team productivity?

BC: Delegating tasks is important because it means that everyone sees exactly how they’re contributing, and it ensures nothing slips through the cracks. Everyone should feel a sense of ownership, responsibility, and autonomy.

When I say “task,” I mean an action that is tied to a deliverable. Every team member should know exactly what they are supposed to do. Tasks should be organized in a place where everyone can easily see what they have to work on next, and where everyone can see the status of a project’s many moving parts. Trello works great for this, no matter what size your team, to keep everyone on track.

A sample team Trello board from Brian Cervino's Skillshare class,  Productivity & Time Management: Get More Done.
A sample team Trello board from Brian Cervino’s Skillshare class, Productivity & Time Management: Get More Done.

So teams shouldn’t shouldn’t work together all the time?

BC: It’s important to remember that every member of a team may work differently, so it’s best to communicate the higher-level team needs upfront. This will create the strongest, most collaborative environment. After that, everyone is responsible for accomplishing their part. On my team at Trello, we try and minimize meetings so that the team can go “heads down” when needed, and focus on a task without interruption.

How can team leads foster productive work environments?

BC: I would suggest three things.

First, find a flexible system that can easily adapt to your team’s needs. Your goal is a system that provides a clear perspective on who’s doing what, and what still needs to get done.

Second, be clear communicators and facilitators of progress, making sure to remove any blockers that might be holding up someone’s work.

And third, remember that building a great team workflow often requires a bit of trial and error. If something isn’t working after a few days or weeks, don’t consider it a failure. Instead, be ready to adjust and adapt your tools to your needs.

You get a lot done in a day. How do you stay productive?

BC: For me, it’s all about finding my creative moments, the times when my brain is exploding with ideas. I try to document each one, since I rarely have the free time to tackle it in the moment. I’ve found that having something clear and actionable — something I can go back to later — is very important for me. And in between? As my team can attest, I drink a lot of coffee.

Written by:

Alyssa Demirjian