In this article, we shall be discussing various ways to improve your collaboration skills. We shall also be looking at the definition of collaboration in the workplace, its essentiality and importance and various indicators of good collaborative skills. Today’s work-culture labels collaboration as an essential skill. Those who collaborate better grow better in an organization.
What is collaboration?
According to the Oxford dictionary, collaboration is “united labor, co-operation; especially in literary, artistic or scientific work.”
According to Webster, to collaborate is “to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor.”
A study by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, shows that more than 80 percent of companies seek employees with good collaboration skills. Workplace collaboration requires a great deal of interpersonal skills, communication skills, knowledge sharing and strategy. It not only is important to better relationships between the members of a team but also improves productivity on a whole.
What is the importance of collaboration?
Let’s look at some of the reasons why collaboration is essential in the workplace.
- Team-work is more effective and efficient
You might have heard the saying, “Two heads are better than one.” This is the reason your primary school teacher emphasized on group activities more. Groups and teams tend to work more effectively and more goal-focused rather than individuals.
In groups, with good collaboration, we can see better leadership with better work delegation, sharing of responsibilities, ultimately getting the work doing better and at a faster rate.
- Those who work in a group tend to be more motivated than those who work alone
We might have experienced this many times. We have a project but are hardly motivated to complete it, even with the right time, energy, resources and skills. We often procrastinate or don’t perform up to our fullest potential. However, those who work in a group tend to be more motivated than those who work alone. When we work in a group, we are socially motivated.
We not only interact with others in an engaging environment but are also exposed to health competition. Healthy competition is the reason you pushed yourself to first place instead of settling for second, when you saw your friend run past you in your fifth grade school race. When we work in a group, we are positively pushed to perform to our fullest potential.
- Collaboration in the workplace improves healthy relations between employees
Those who play together, stay together. The same thing goes for those who collaborate positively together. Team-members who collaborate have been found to have a better relationship amongst them. This is not just because of increased positive interaction, but also because of the mutual trust and respect that defines collaboration.
Team-members are not afraid to open up about their personal lives and struggles, knowing fully well they can count on the support of their colleagues.
- · It improves productivity
Collaboration improves productivity more than a mere pep-talk, or just plain old team-work. This is because collaboration relies on tighter networks, deeper interactions and shared values. Better the collaboration, better the process. Better the process, better the performance which ultimately leads to better productivity in the team.
- Teams can come up with unique solutions for various challenges
Rather than just sharing ideas googled off the internet, collaboration allows teams to come up with new ideas of their own. The increased positive engagement between team members, allows creativity to flow in the workplace. This in turn generates new ideas and unique solutions for problems. Many wonderful ideas were created when people collaborated well together. In case of any doubt, ask the Wright Brothers!
What are the indicators of good collaboration skills?
Now that we are aware of what collaboration is and its importance in an organization, let’s see if you have got what it takes to be a good collaborator. Many sources give different definitions of collaboration and many people have their own versions of it. But it doesn’t have to be so confusing. Let’s delve in deeper and see if you have the right collaborative skills.
- Can you give and receive feedback from others in the team?
Feedback is an essentiality for any task. Any task, no matter how good it may be, can be done better. And where there are people working together, feedback and criticism is a common occurrence. It is important to know if you know when to give feedback and how to give it in a positive manner without hurting a person’s feelings.
It is more important to know how to receive feedback. All feedback might not be good and even when it is, it shouldn’t be the one that gets to your head. You have to learn how to take feedback constructively and apply it in a way so that the task is done more efficiently, for the sake of the group and the organization.
- Can you listen patiently?
Patience is certainly a virtue. It bodes well until we have to express patience in a conflicting situation. It is necessary to be patient, while listening to others when they criticize, or row through a conflicting process. Those who are patient, tend to be seen as more resilient and those who exhibit qualities of a better leader.
- Can you acknowledge the skills, creativity and accomplishments of others?
A collaborative team brings together people of different mind-sets and skill-sets. But it is important for everyone in the team to understand the strengths of their peers, especially when it surpasses their own. Many times, this doesn’t happen whole-heartedly.
Employees have too much pride or too much ego to acknowledge the efficient skills of their peers which might be beneficial to the organization as a whole. And more times than often, super strengths go unnoticed because a team-member failed to back it up.
- How willing are you to listen to and acknowledge the feelings and opinions of others?
No matter how black-and-white we try to make the workplace, there are still many grey areas. They are grey, because people make up the workforce. People bring emotions and feelings that paper and metal will not. To be a better collaborator and a better employee, we have to be ready to empathize.
Studies have found that Emotional Intelligence is equally or more important than Intellectuality. The more you listen and acknowledge, the more you learn and the more you empower others. This is essential for work-place collaboration.
- Can you define problems in a non-threatening manner?
Problems arise in the workplace frequently. But it takes one person to say the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong manner to convert a simple problem into a full-blown chaos. It is important to put across a problem in a non-threatening manner when we are collaborating in a team. This is not essentially down-playing a problem smaller than it is. But is basically putting forth the scenario in such a manner that the focus is on the solution and not the problem anymore.
Methods to improve collaboration skills
Now that we have seen the various indicators of good collaborative skills, let’s look at various methods to improve collaborative skills.
- Setting clear goals for the team
Setting clearer and measurable goals ensure their fulfilment. The more you understand your goals, both short-term and long-term, the better you work on them. It is also important to make them specific and measurable with a time-gauge so that you are motivated to fulfil them efficiently.
- Learning to communicate intelligently
Since miscommunication is the biggest indicator of a bad collaboration, communicating effectively and intelligently is the key to good collaboration. It is not only about communicating your feelings and emotions, but also your intentions for a task, your expectations and feedback as well. The way you communicate must exhibit positivity, leadership, empathy and strength.
- Learning to listen
Listening is a skill that many employees forget to implement. Many employees often complain that those who are higher-up hardly listen to them. But they also forget to mention that they themselves forget to listen to each other. In a collaborative team, it becomes important to listen patiently to problems, advice, feedback, ideas as well as feelings and personal issues. There is power in listening; it grants you knowledge and leverage, all the while putting you in a light of empathy and kinship.
- Learning to be open-minded
Sometimes with the education and experience we carry, it can become difficult to be open-minded about new ideas in the workplace. We might have become comfortable with our traditional ways and might be afraid of anything shaking our nest up. It can also be a fear of stepping out of our comfort zone.
But new ideas are born every day, and it is important for an organization to implement innovative ideas if they want to be on top. Being open-minded to new ideas can empower your team while paving the way for more new ideas, many of which will allow your organization to grow to another level.
- Don’t play the blame-game
Playing the blame-game is easy when problems arise. But a good collaboration means accountability and transparency. It also means overcoming challenges without blaming anyone. This is a necessary skill but a difficult one to practice as it requires a letting go of one’s ego and focusing on the future rather than spilt milk.
In this article, we have discussed various ways to improve your collaboration skills. We also defined collaboration in the workplace, its essentiality and importance and various indicators of good collaborative skills.
Frequently asked questions
How do I improve my collaboration skills?
You can improve your collaboration skills by following the methods given below:
- Stepping outside your comfort zone
When we stay inside our comfort zone for too long a time, we forget to sharpen our skills, learn new things and forget to use our strengths to their fullest potential. Sometimes, it can also lead to a decrease in motivation and hence productivity. Taking on projects outside your comfort zone can teach you plenty about collaboration. It teaches you to be open-minded, understand inter-dependence and relying on the expertise and knowledge of others.
- Finding a mentor
Becoming someone’s protégé allows you to learn collaboration skills from the best in the industry. Finding someone who relates with your personal goal will be useful in mapping out your career and also teaching you the right skills along the way.
- Active listening
This not only engages and empowers those around you but also lessens misunderstandings and miscommunication, the trademark of bad collaborations.
What are three important skills for teamwork and collaboration?
The three most important skills are as follows:
- Self-awareness. Being aware of your strengths and limitations
- Tolerance. Being patient and tolerant towards others
- Trust. Being trusting enough to be interdependent as a team
If you have any questions or comments please let us know.