February 24th, 2021
The Importance of Collaboration Skills in the Workplace
Collaboration. Another word for work together, play nice. We’ve been honing our collaboration skills since pre-school, and in our later years collaboration meant the dreaded group project. Now that we are fully entrenched in our careers, collaboration has taken on a whole new meaning and all new importance. So, how do you successfully bring different personalities and skill sets together in the workplace while continuing to improve your own collaboration skills? We’ve got some ideas!
What are collaboration skills?
Let’s start here first. Nearly every work environment requires employee partnership and teamwork on some level, but with many jobs moving mostly online or remote, the opportunity for organic collaboration has diminished. This is one of the reasons why being a “natural” collaborator is more valuable now than ever. Your ability to bring people together to hear new ideas and come up with new solutions has to be a top priority. Which means you’ll be intentionally working with people who have different personality types, skill sets and even different ideas on what productivity and success looks like. Sounds a lot like that dreaded group project from college right? But it doesn’t have to feel that way! There are actually some major benefits to getting the team together and busting out a collab session.
Benefits of practicing collaboration at work
Innovative ideas and new ways of thinking:
Our world changes at an incredibly fast pace and the ability to keep up has become more difficult. When collaboration is encouraged and prioritized, the cultivation of fresh ideas and new ways to accomplish them can flourish.
Improved employee engagement:
How often have you felt more buy-in to an idea when you were part of the collaboration session that came up with it? We’ve all been there! We felt heard and valued, which equated to increased engagement and a more positive work environment.
Faster time to completion:
With collaboration, you now have the ability to complete a project faster. Seeking out new ideas and including different departments from the very beginning means not having to loop people in half way through and possibly redoing work because something got missed. That means time to market speeds up!
Skillset level up:
When you have the chance to work with people who have different skill sets than your own, the likelihood of you learning something new is much greater! If you can, take the time to sit with the designer or accountant while they work through their piece of the puzzle and you might pick up a new skill.
This is especially important for larger organizations or companies with a considerable percentage of remote workers. Cross-departmental collaboration opens the door to greater transparency throughout the organization for the employees. When you can hear from other people outside of your department, you’ll have a much better understanding of the company as a whole.
Lighten your workload:
I’m just going to throw this one out there because we’re all thinking it. Once you’ve got everyone running towards the same goal, the opportunity to lighten your workload becomes a reality. Collaboration is actually a great way to divvy up certain responsibilities that might have fallen on your shoulders had you not brought in a team to tackle them together.
Types of collaboration skills
Collaboration on its surface seems like something we can naturally accomplish, but there are actually some very specific skill sets that can help you become an expert!
Your words matter, especially now when that collab session might be held via a phone call or Zoom. When in a collaborative setting, you want to make sure you are communicating clearly and respectfully. You don’t want to over impose your viewpoints and you definitely want to be an active listener. You can disagree but do so in a kind way. This applies to written communication as well!
Patience is a virtue. This is absolutely true in a team setting. When working through a problem area as a team, be patient with those contributing. They might share a different perspective on the issue depending on the lens they are seeing it through. Answering the same question in different ways could actually lead to an innovative solution!
Don’t take things personally. That’s always easier said than done, but it’s one of the most important collaboration skills. People can always think of ideas to contribute, but being able to handle yourself professionally when your idea gets shot down is a recognizable leadership trait.
Ability to see others’ strengths:
In a collaborative environment, people are going to bring different skill sets to the table. If you can recognize each person’s strength, you can ensure they are contributing in a meaningful and productive way. Some “people” to look for when it comes to your collab team are the note taker, the creative thinker, the systematic organizer and the budget tracker. Having a dreamer on the team couldn’t hurt either! Make sure you’ve identified your own strengths too. Putting your best foot forward from the very beginning will only set you, the team and the project up for success!
This one is pretty much a no brainer when it comes to a brainstorming session. You have to walk away with a plan of attack and that means someone in the group has to be able to delegate tasks accordingly. If you’ve been able to identify each person’s strength in the group, then delegation will be the easy part.
Improve your collaboration skills
All of the skill sets above seem pretty basic, but practice makes perfect. So does a self check and a debrief!
The self check:
Do a self check when you’re in a collaborative environment. Are you dominating conversation? Are you actively listening? Have you contributed ideas in a thoughtful way? Did you get quiet or moody when your ideas got shot down? How are you coming across in your communication with others? Just taking a quick look inward can be a total game changer in honing those skills.
Another great way to improve your collaboration skills is to ask the group for a debrief at the completion of the project. This way you not only get to talk about ways to improve the process, but also hear any feedback on your contributions to the team. But, make sure to bring that thick skin with you. Sometimes feedback can be harsh. Just remember it’s necessary to grow!
Collaboration is great for your company but it’s also a huge win for you! Getting to know other employees, being able to showcase your strengths and possibly leveling up an untapped skill set is invaluable when it comes to your potential career growth. So stop looking at collaboration as the dreaded group project and start looking at it as your next big opportunity!
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