6 Skills Needed for Effective Collaboration

Collaboration - how do we do it? Unfortunately, there's no quick solution. In this blog, I discuss my experience of collaboration and what we can try.

Or 9 or 12... see here’s the thing, I don’t believe there is an ‘x step blog’ that you can read that will make collaborating (working with other human beings) much easier - unfortunately, there is no winning formula, at least not one that I’m aware of. Whether it’s a complex work meeting, a team strategy day, a project with a tight deadline, or even being part of a family - - people working and living together is messy and unpredictable. collaboration skills communication

I think part of the challenge in today’s society is that we want quick solutions to complex problems and simple ways to grapple with the uncertain reality we work in; and as a consultant in this space, it’s hard not to fall into the trap of seeking to provide this for people in superficial ways. Below are a couple of things that I have noticed happening when we partner with our client organisations: purposeful collaboration
  • We create and use models and frameworks which feel simple to work with but can distract us from our reality 
  • We set strategic ‘road maps’ that focus on some idealistic future - yet avoid the hard talk about what is happening now and how we might be ‘stuck’ 
  • We just scratch the surface of what’s really lying underneath our group dynamics in order to protect the ‘harmonious’  environments we desire - yet are they really that harmonious?

So what do you do to make working together more effective? Good quality collaboration has an impact on my energy and enjoyment for projects, the quality of relationship I have with people and ultimately makes us more productive which impacts our bottom line, but it’s not straight forward. 

Below I have shared some of the ways (and not 6!) that I think can impact the quality of collaboration.

  • Acknowledging our uncertain reality
    This has been really difficult (and still is) for me. I am the type of person who would love to believe that the plans she makes will happen in exactly the way she imagines. However, learning to embrace uncertainty has been a liberating experience in many ways - it has me less attached to certain outcomes, more curious about differing perspectives, and more able to engage in higher quality discussions about the topic at hand. I have found I have been less disruptive as a result, and more flexible in my approach which I believe has shifted the effectiveness of our collaboration in many ways.
  • A sense of curiosity and passion for perspective
    It is not a groundbreaking idea that when someone has a fixed idea about something they can often be difficult to work with. Dialling up our curiosity and being more inquisitive into our thoughts and assumptions as well as those of others, can open up rich and valuable discussions - often leading to more well-thought-through, better quality decision making. That said, I have also experienced groups where the time spent gathering viewpoints and remaining curious has left me feeling we are not progressing, so it is useful to remain aware of this.
  • An increased sense of awareness and responsibility
    Paying attention to how we are in a group of people, what triggers us and entrenched habits and practices are vitally important. For example, noticing the power with which I can speak at times and how this influences other people has been a very important lesson. Additionally, noting my want to move things on and how I can become quite anxious when I feel like a process is too slow or unproductive has enabled me to be more conscious about my reactions - giving me more choice about how I might choose to respond. We are often quick to blame the behaviour of others, but I think taking responsibility and adapting our own behaviour as appropriate is the best place to start.
  • Embracing an experimental attitude
    When a decision is made, it feels important that it is seen as an experiment rather than a fixed way of doing something. How we learn from our experience and adapt and change as we go feels important for effective collaboration. In my experience, when the going gets tough, we often reach for a decision to make the situation feel less painful and messy, yet when we are working in more complex environments we need to acknowledge there isn’t necessarily a ‘right’ way forward, and more consistently test and adjust our actions based on feedback and outcomes.

If you have found this blog stimulating and wish to discuss collaboration and all of the fun surrounding this process, we would love to chat. You can get in touch with us via our Contact page and we'll get right back to you.