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How to Cultivate Healthy Collaboration and Team

By Jennifer A. Williams December 13, 2017

Nothing is more exciting and empowering than working on a project or playing on a dynamic team—until it’s not. An energetic brainstorming can go completely awry by a subtle putdown. A co-worker makes a critical comment about a blog posted on the company newsletter. Someone makes a disparaging remark about another person's work. Most everyone has experienced something like this, right?

A team collaborating on a projectAlthough we'd like to think that we are immune to the attitudes and comments of our co-workers and colleagues, the truth is that we're usually not.

What can we do when discordant emotions arise that feel alienating? How do we rebound after we've taken a hit to our self-esteem? How can we build safety into a reliable recipe for spirited cooperation?

Here are proven keys to help strengthen team, enhance communication, and cultivate cooperation. Successful collaboration depends foremost on being a good team player with yourself. Working together with others in helpful ways requires you to first be your own advocate.

5 Vital Keys to Successful Collaboration

KEY #1: Take care of yourself. Collaboration is only sustainable when all parties are responsible for their own needs. You can’t help anyone if you’re burned out and exhausted. Strong business relationships and high performance begin with taking care of yourself. Forget the adage that you should be selfless. No one can give from an empty cup.

Are you speaking up with your ideas? Do you set boundaries for unrealistic timelines or long hours? Can you convert self-doubt and criticism to encouragement or a healthy challenge?

How well you govern your internal landscape determines the quality of your team experience.

Check in regularly with yourself. Ask for help when you're overwhelmed. If a direction feels wrong to you, speak up and provide logical reasons. The more grounded you are within yourself, the better you'll show up. Taking responsibility to be your best self will help any team you play on!

KEY #2: Ensure that there’s 100% commitment. Collaborative teamwork can go awry when two or more people agree to share the workload but are not fully engaged or committed. Make sure before you commit that you have the resources and the heart to put into the collaboration. If there are limitations, state these upfront, and ask other team members to do the same. Clarity creates smooth communication, especially when there is an understanding of expectations.

KEY #3: Give and receive constructive feedback. Giving feedback helps us to improve communication, strengthen understanding, and sharpen future work. Yet, when we avoid hurting feelings and try to keep the peace, we will withhold honest and constructive feedback. If we're afraid of stepping on toes or fear a reaction, the tendency is to let things slide instead of speaking up.

"Politeness is the poison of collaboration." 
~ Edwin Land

Land goes on to say, "When collaborating with others, it is tempting to say that you like something, or that you think something is good, just to be polite. In reality, this does not advance the project or idea being collaborated on. Any collaborative project should reflect the will of all those involved. By holding in what you really think, for the sake of avoiding hurting someone else's feelings, you destroy the opportunity for honest communication in a collaborative environment."

A vital part of collaborative success depends on sharing our ideas and gifts to help others grow. This interchange requires us to hold each other accountable through honest feedback. And yes, it may be uncomfortable. But this flow of valuable feedback supports us to reach our full potential—both individually and collectively.

Team means everyone giving their best ideasKEY #4: Focus on building quality, reciprocal relationships. It's easy to take on more than your fair share especially if you're a very capable go-getter. It can be tempting to compensate for another’s lack of engagement or skill. Don't. When we do, resentment is likely to build. When others don’t reciprocate equitably, the experience and relationship can become problematic.

Make sure that participation and contributions are fair. Provide each person opportunities to contribute in the best possible ways. Engage each person's unique talents instead of having a few people carry the load. Listen to where people feel that they can contribute their best work and delegate accordingly. In the best-case scenario, team players complement each other’s strengths and talents.

KEY #5: Set goals and measure progress, performance, and success. Providing a form of measurement is essential when people collaborate. A lack of measurement can result in misunderstandings later when one or more persons feel that results are inadequate.

Define the parameters. Who will handle what? What timelines are critical and what ones are flexible? What information needs to be communicated and how often? Establish progress check-ins and determine milestones you can celebrate together. Consistent actions toward results and mutual benefit build trust. With effective communication and openness, working together can be a pleasure for everyone.

In our highly competitive world, collaborative endeavors can go amuck. When we focus on working together to do our best work rather than trying to outdo or one-up someone else, the results are remarkable! The most dynamic partnerships leverage individual strengths to energize teams and infuse projects with innovation and creativity. Apply one or more of these keys to strengthen teamwork and discover the power and potential of inspired cooperation.

For more proven tips on teamwork and effective communication, contact us.

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Posted in Leadership and Business, Communication & Interpersonal Skills