How to play well on any team: 9 collaboration tips
Working with other people is central to the fabric of business. As Steve Jobs, founder and former CEO of Apple, said “Great things in business are never done by one person; they're done by a team of people."
So whether you’re organising an industry event or manufacturing the world’s most socially advanced robot, you rely on co-operation with others – their skills, their knowledge, their time – to get the job done. And because we work more and more across international borders, being able to adapt to different working styles, cultures and platforms is at the heart of good collaboration.
Collaboration means being able to communicate and work with people from all types of background. Building strong relationships and networks is key to delivering better outcomes. It means being flexible and accommodating in your style, especially in how you communicate – both in person and using technology.
As technology advances and social norms shift, the need for people with excellent collaboration skills is becoming greater for businesses and employers. Here are 9 tips that will help set you up for success.
Too many projects suffer from a lack of direction and focus. Discuss these points up-front and make sure everyone’s on the same page.
It’s hard to collaborate in a group discussion where one person dominates. That’s why it’s important to be inclusive, practice your listening skills, have confidence and believe in what you have to share.
How do your fellow team members do their best thinking – in silence or out loud? Are they productive in a free-flowing environment or would they feel more comfortable with a methodical process? Give everyone a chance to play to their strengths.
In the age of email and instant messaging, it’s all too easy to forget that we are working with real people. Amazing things can happen when we step away from our screens and speak with people – try it and see.
The classic brainstorm (getting people in the same room to talk about ideas) is often criticised for failing to produce results. So why not try virtual brainstorming? Using these focused, online, written forums, it’s proven that people tend to generate a higher quality and quantity of ideas (and satisfaction with these ideas) versus traditional brainstorming sessions.
Short-term contracts mean you may regularly find yourself working with new people – where it’ll be important to build rapport with others quickly. Sharing anecdotes and personal stories, finding common ground and showing empathy for each other are excellent ways to help you build trust and understanding.
Did you know that direct eye contact is a sign of respectfulness in the UK but, in China, it’s considered rude? Body language, authority and decision-making are just some of the things that can differ around the world and cause offence if not understood. If you’re going to be working with others from a different culture, do your research so you’re not taken by surprise.
If a business searched for you online before hiring you (like many do), what would they find? To succeed in the new working world, you’ll need to make sure employers are aware of your skills and the benefits you can bring to their business. This means building your personal brand – so make sure you’re presenting a consistent picture of yourself, whether in person or online.
No matter how awesome your personal brand is, one reality refuses to give way: People prefer to work with people they know, like and trust. So deliver great work, treat people well and give them every reason to recruit you for their team next time around.
Whatever your previous experiences and feelings about working with others, it will be a central skill for your future career. So put these insights into practice and your ability to play well on any team will set you apart and take you far.