“Life is not a solo act.” – Tim Gunn
Many organisations, large and small, identify the importance of collaboration. For a lot of companies, it is a core competency against which they may measure their employees. Yet in what is becoming an increasingly competitive world, does collaboration still have the same relevance?
We think yes. We think that from collaboration, great ideas, products, and services are born.
A quick Google search on ‘what is collaboration’, headlines with two possible meanings:
1. The action of working with someone to produce something
2. Traitorous cooperation with an enemy
Well, the first sounds a bit boring and the second could be true with serious office politics at play!
The same Google search reveals many other bloggers talking about the same thing – what is collaboration? Purposefully not reading them, we considered whether another article about collaboration was needed!
What we do want to address is the approach that we have labelled ‘committed collaboration’.
Yes, collaboration is the ‘action of working with someone to produce something’ – it still sounds a bit boring! Committed collaboration should not be boring, not even a little bit. It encompasses mindset, thought-sharing, and blended action.
To undertake committed collaboration with one or more people, you must bring the right attitude or mindset to the exercise. Whether a short or a long-term project or relationship, starting with the right mindset can be critical to a successful collaboration. This is fine if you like the other party and/or have chosen to work with them – you will generally be excited or keen to start working with them. But what if your boss makes you work on a project with someone you despise and on tasks that you loathe? OK, a worse case example, yet many collaborations are not always as we would like them.
So when you start your collaboration, kick-start the right mindset. To help, consider:
- What can I personally learn from working with this person/s and on this project?
- What can I bring to the collaboration?
- What type of person do I want to be seen as in the workplace?
- What will I need to bring to the collaboration to achieve our goals and the above?
- What are the challenges I might envisage and how will I approach them if they arise?
If you start with the right mindset and keep revisiting these questions, you have created an internal commitment that should translate into the appropriate behaviours.
Even if you don’t personally like someone you are collaborating with , look for ways to bring a positive attitude to the work. Make a commitment to yourself to have genuine regard for those you are collaborating with – you don’t have to like them, or be friends forever, yet you should have respect for them as a fellow human being.
If you don’t like the project or work you are doing in the collaboration, try to find a positive outcome it might help you achieve, something it might lead to in the future, or a skill that you might be able to develop. Throughout the project or work, balance the tasks that you don’t enjoy with ones you do enjoy.
Make a commitment to work well with others and take pride in whatever it is you are collaborating on.
To have effective collaboration, all parties must bring their thoughts, ideas and opinions to the table. And others involved must have an open-mind and respect to listen!
Find a way with those you are collaborating with to share thoughts – be it about the objectives of a project, the steps to achieve goals, or the measures of success. You might need to ask people in advance to bring their thoughts to a meeting, hold a brainstorming session over lunch, or gather input over email – there are hundreds of ways to thought-share!
Each person may have a slightly different opinion or idea, yet it is important for all of these thoughts (relevant ones!) to be shared. Without generating ‘analysis paralysis’ you want to ensure that everyone has had a chance to contribute to discussions. Otherwise, it’s not truly collaborating and could just be ‘follow the leader’ – or ‘whoever screams loudest wins’!
Many people think deep down (actually most of us in the corporate world, if we are honest!) that we know the best way or hold the right perspective in situations familiar to us. Yet if we block thought-sharing, how can we innovate, how can we personally learn from others and how can we call it ‘collaborating’?
So with an open mind and a genuine regard for others, encourage thought-sharing as part of your collaboration.
Blended action could be just another way of saying – ‘action plan’ and ‘roles and responsibility’. However the intent of ‘blended action’ is that after discussion, decisions must be made and actions taken that recognise the varied opinions and skills of those involved. It’s not just about assigning tasks to each other and then working in silos.
Blended action is all about:
- Reaching decisions that truly take into account the thought-sharing that has occurred – “We recognise all of these ideas and opinions and we think the way to move ahead is ____, for these reasons____.”
- Understanding the skills different people and you yourself bring and agreeing on how tasks are allocated and potentially shared. You’re not competing here – you’re collaborating!
- Checking-in with each other regularly – how are we tracking, who needs some extra help here, what else should we be doing to make this a success?
After bringing the right mind-set, thought-sharing and engaging in blended action, you are well on the way to committed collaboration. And isn’t that more enjoyable and interesting than just ‘working with someone to produce something’?
(this post was inspired by a wonderful collaboration partnership Engaging Potential is actively involved in – one that combines the super powers of two companies to create a fabulous client offering)
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