While impressing your team is likely not the only reason you are interested in collaboration, it certainly is a great byproduct! Whatever your job role, whether you’re a Chief Experience Officer, Knowledge Worker, IT Manager, or Customer Service Officer… collaborating with your colleagues is the key to successful teams and to the overall success of the business. These simple tips for collaboration will have a massive impact on the quality of your work relationships and how your team functions.
1. Start From a Place of Respect
If respect is in the forefront of your mind when you interact with your colleagues, you will generally avoid behaviours that could be damaging to your team. Be respectful of your team members’ skills, experience, work ethic and ideas, show them that you value their opinions and input. This goes especially for colleagues that you may not naturally get along with, or even clash with. Find ways to solve conflict through respectful communication, if not in the first instance then have enough respect for your colleagues to revisit issues where you may have reacted, rather than acting from a place of respect.
2. Be Open to Your Colleagues’ Suggestions
Scrap the word “No!” from your vocabulary, likewise “I don’t think that’s a good idea...”, and “The problem with that is…” Collaborating isn’t about you having all the answers, it’s about creating a safe and open space for your team to share ideas. By being open, you will find that your team have valuable input that is likely outside of their “job function”. Yes, there are times where decisions need to be made about the direction of a project or even the overall business, but make those calls and communicate it in a well-considered manner.
3. Cultivate Personal Relationships with Your Colleagues
Understanding what your colleagues are going through in their lives, whether positive, negative or somewhere in between, will provide insight into into who they are as people. It will have a positive impact on your work relationship and on team dynamics. When you understand who they are, collaborating becomes easier. Go for a coffee, grab lunch together, or join team drinks etc.
4. Communicate Well with Your Colleagues
In business there are many, MANY methods of practicing and developing your communication skills. This is not just an “I talk, you listen” exercise. This means using your words, your ears, and your body language! Consider the context in which you are communicating with your colleague, for example, do they have any background triggers with the issue at hand? This is a big topic, so don’t skim over your communication skills.
5. Set Regular Brainstorming Sessions
While it’s easy to get caught in the “I’m too busy” excuse, ignoring brainstorming sessions will be to the detriment of the team and the business! Set up a regular brainstorming sessions with a different theme and, if your team are open to it, choose a different facilitator from within the team each time. This will build their skills and also signal to the team that you’re open to working together, rather than always leading.
6. Develop Trust Between Yourself and Your Colleagues
There is no shortcut to trust. A key piece of advice is to cut the ego and start with humbly trusting your own abilities and mastery. If you come to your colleagues from a place of security, rather than insecurity and ego-fuel-hunting, they will see a more authentic you. It follows suit that it’s easier to trust someone who is being honest with you, rather than the opposite.
7. Take Responsibility for Your Words and Actions
There’s no better way to improve team dynamics and collaboration than by being accountable and accepting responsibility for your own mistakes and shortcomings. Avoid blame at all costs! Blame must be absent from the way you conduct yourself in your professional relationships (and personal life, if we’re being honest). As soon as you blame, you reject responsibility for your actions and thereby eliminate your chance of doing anything to improve the situation. By taking responsibility for your words and actions, you also give yourself the power to improve them.
8. Develop Your Emotional Intelligence
There are five domains of emotional intelligence, and you’d better start thinking about each of them! (1) knowing your emotions, (2) managing your emotions, (3) motivating yourself, (4) recognising emotions in others, (5) handling relationships. It’s no surprise looking at those topics that emotional intelligence is paramount to collaboration. You will notice that you can’t manage other people’s emotions, only your reactions to them. Emotional intelligence is essential to being a good leader, and remember, leaders are not managers, they are often scattered throughout job roles and hierarchies.
9. Offer Constructive Criticism
Learning how to provide feedback to your colleagues is a key component of collaboration. You’ll not always agree, nor do you need to. What is important, is that the criticism you give is constructive, rather than destructive! Use the feedback sandwich, speak in a passive voice and comment on the situation rather than the person.
10. Give Your Colleagues Room to Develop
Sometimes hanging back when you see a colleague struggling with something is kinder than jumping in to solve the problem for them. Through challenges, we grow. So depriving your colleagues of this growth is not only selfish, but it is counter productive to collaboration.
11. Be Positive
Projecting a positive attitude, even when you’re feeling grim, is a simple way to boost office morale and invite collaboration. Positivity is contagious, the good kind of contagious! It is also attractive and will draw people towards you, helping to strengthen your relationships.
12. Train, Teach, Share
Sharing skills and knowledge is a great way to promote collaboration between your colleagues. If you know that one of your colleagues could benefit from learning a skill that you’ve mastered, offer to train them or help them in any way. This is also a way to build trust, as they will begin to see you as an ally, rather than a threat. Likewise, if you know a colleague has a fantastic skill, ask them to share it with you or other team members.
13. Solve Your Own Problems
Rather than going to management to solve the problem for you, take some time to reflect on what the problem is to you. Defining what the problem is, why it is triggering you, what you are accountable for and what you imagine your colleague is accountable for, are key steps in solving a problem that may hinder your collaboration. “A problem well-defined is a problem half solved.” - John Dewey.
Collaboration and Organisational IQ
Collaboration is a key compontent of building the intelligence of an organisation, and smart companies become successful companies. If you are interested in unlocking organisational intelligence to help employees learn faster and work smarter, try the quiz.