How To Collaborate More Effectively

Creating a culture of collaboration both within your organisation and beyond with stakeholders, customers and partners, is one of the most powerful methods of ensuring a sustainable business that enjoys continual growth.

“Effective collaboration is about maximising time, talent and tools to create value” Evan Rossen.

The competitiveness that emerges by focusing on what you can do personally to improve service, engagement and open, honest communication will future-proof your business in increasingly challenging market conditions.

There is an ‘I’ in TEAM.

The old cliche of there is no ‘I’ in TEAM is simply wrong. Teamwork, communication and collaboration begins and ends with you. It’s not about relying on others to create and innovate.It is about taking responsibility yourself for initiating opportunities and embracing the accountability for outcomes, whether they are positive or negative.

Such a culture is beyond the physical. It may be a workspace but it’s also a thought-space that should transcend your geographic location.

To begin exploring more effective collaboration it’s vital to first think about culture and the collective workspace in which people, teams and stakeholders operate and interact. Culture is formed of collective priorities, values, beliefs and the tone of voice of communication, in all its mediums.

Once recognised, it is important to prove the process by selecting a single challenge or problem to solve to ensure that you can test and prove or disprove the models and techniques before embracing then more widely.

“Organisations that invest in relationships tend to create more trusting environments — which helps spur both collaboration and innovation” 3M.

What important challenge are you going to solve? When does everyone involved expect the outcome to happen and how can you move everyone, including yourself, from a position of hope to a deeper and more collaborative position of collective faith in positive outcomes and the trust that arises from true symbiotic relationships?

“Build a workplace where change is exciting, not painful” Martin Zwilling.

True collaboration arises when all parties both perceive and understand their co-dependency and the value that both you and they will achieve from working together. If everyone wins, you win. If everyone loses, you lose. Mutual partnerships are co-dependent and far deeper, more sustainable and more than simply service provision.

It’s vital to consider your partners or stakeholders from their perspective rather than your own. Step into their shoes and view your value and contribution from their perspective. If you or they are extrovert and you or they are introvert you’ll have a fundamentally different perspective on the best way to interact, operate and communicate. A shared objective or goal is helpful but only part of the journey to true collaboration. Understanding and working with, rather than despite, others’ preferences and styles is vital to achieve the results to which you aspire.

“Value all forms of communication, not simply agreeability” Todd Etter. This includes written and verbal communication as well as body language.

Sharing values such as skills, strategy, staff, structure, systems and style ensure a truly collaborative environment considers all the most important ingredients of co-working. Beyond that and as a direct result, comes an ethic of contribution. As humans we are pre-programmed to collaborate to a basic level. In the collaborative corporate environment we can move this to the next level by creating an holistic infrastructure in which contribution in all its forms, is valued and rewarded. Make choice central to the involvement in a particular project or activity. Play with space and create a flow between social and reflective activities, says Tanner Higgin.

Harvard best practice talks about “…defining and building a shared purpose; cultivating an ethic of contribution; developing processes that enable people to work together in flexible but disciplined projects; and creating an infrastructure in which collaboration is valued and rewarded.” In many ways this embraces everything that’s required by the most effective form of teamwork.

Prioritisation is key at the outset, to ensure best practice and mindset are embedded accurately before roll out to other challenges and issues. Learn and figure our ‘your way’ to lead rather than ‘the way’ to lead. There was only one Steve Jobs and there is only one YOU.

Appropriate workspaces and thought-spaces result from balancing personalities and skills, creating time and comfortable collaborative areas and communicating from the ‘why’ in everything you do. Charles Duhigg describes the psychology behind how Google builds the perfect team. This comes from a simple equation of conversational turn taking and ostentatious listening. The result is psychological safety where risk is permitted and temporary failures embraced as learning opportunities.

A challenge you’ll face a little further down the self development journey is how best to sustain the improved collaboration and company culture you’ve instigated. Focusing on mindset and ideas as well as behaviours and outcomes, appeals to our human nature as well as the ego-centricity of a traditional business workplace. Encourage everyone to avoid taking the path of least resistance. Alternatives may be more challenging but will likely yield more positive and higher reward outcomes.

This requires measurement. Objective measures, financial key performance indicators and the typical strategic measures of the success of a business are great, but need to be balanced with honest, authentic and open monitoring, discussion and feedback to ensure continuous improvement is maximised.

Search for wherever you can innovate. Even if it’s as simple as little 1% incremental improvements to your process. These quickly accumulate over time to positively affect your organisation and eventual business results.

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