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What is collaboration?

Collaboration means working together with one or more people to complete a project or task or develop ideas or processes. In the workplace, collaboration occurs when two or more people work together towards a common goal that benefits the team or company.

Workplace collaboration requires interpersonal skills, communication skills, knowledge sharing
and strategy, and can occur in a traditional office or between members of a virtual team. Working as a team not only drives greater productivity but also fosters healthy relationships between employees. Often, when employees work together they’re more effective and efficient than those who attempt to manage the same projects alone. Successfully collaborating with your coworkers can also increase your motivation and level of engagement at work. Additionally, sharing ideas and brainstorming is helpful for developing unique solutions to complex challenges. There are many ways to collaborate effectively at work, and the skills and techniques you rely on when you collaborate can lead to greater efficiency and success.

Benefits of collaboration

  • Solving problems and examining the big picture – Collaboration results in together a significant amount of talent, including professionals across a wide range of skills and knowledge. This allows you to benefit from a variety of perspectives. When you can leverage multiple peoples’ expertise, you’ll likely solve problems faster and drive better outcomes long-term.
  • Inspiring self-analysis – Working collaboratively can help you become more aware of your strengths as well as your weaknesses. This will help you leverage your best skills, and identify which areas you may need assistance from people with different expertise. As a result, you and your teammates can work better together to fill in competency gaps.
  • Teaching and learning –  You learn things from other team members every time you come together to collaborate. An organisation that values collaboration encourages constant teaching and learning. Employees feel secure knowing the workplace values opportunities to grow and develop, and you’ll also feel motivated to expand your skillset outside your current job duties.
  • Increasing efficiency – It’s easier to work together to complete projects and meet deadlines when you have the support of your team. Multiple people working together can divide tasks in a way that leverages each individual’s greatest strengths. Instead of struggling through tasks, you’re not comfortable doing, you can focus your energy where you excel and get immediate feedback on your ideas from other team members.

Examples of collaborative working

Example 1: Brainstorming as a group

Getting together as a team to share ideas and ask questions as you move toward a decision is a great opportunity for collaboration. By sourcing ideas from several people, you can leverage multiple areas of expertise.

Example 2: Collaborative communication and open discussion

The open discussion gives each team member an opportunity to contribute and ensures all ideas are valued and respected. Instead of one person lecturing the rest of the group in a meeting, collaborative discussion requires each team member to participate and share their thoughts and opinions.

This setup breaks down the boundaries of hierarchy often found in the workplace and keeps everyone engaged. When everyone has a stake in the conversation, meetings become more productive.

Ways to improve your ability to collaborate in the workplace

  1. Set clear goals and objectives – When you’re leading a project, it’s essential you start by setting measurable goals and clear objectives. Everyone should understand the purpose and vision behind the project, as well as how you’ll be determining success. Establishing transparency builds trust and inspires further collaboration. Likewise, identifying goals before you kick off a project will ensure everyone is committed to success and aligned with a common purpose.
  2. Communicate your intentions – When working with others, always be sure to state your intentions before you begin tackling a task or assignment. Let your teammates know what you’re doing and set realistic expectations regarding your timeline. Then, be sure to follow through on your promise. If something unexpected happens and you won’t be able to deliver results as expected, communicate these changes, too.
  3. Listen and learn to compromise – When you’re working closely with others, it’s essential you
    listen closely to each team member’s ideas, feedback and advice — and be considerate and respectful when responding. While you may have your own ideas about the direction of a project or how the team should perform each task, it’s critical you take your colleagues’ opinions into account, too. Often, the best way to approach differing perspectives is to reach a compromise.
  4. Overcome challenges and solve problems without assigning blame – Sometimes when working with others, problems arise or people make mistakes. In these circumstances, it’s essential to calmly analyze the issue as a group without blaming any team member. Instead, focus your energy on working together to find solutions. To enhance collaboration, it’s important you’re willing to forgive mistakes when others make them and take responsibility when you make an error. This helps build trust between team members and ensures everyone feels comfortable communicating, even if they do something wrong.
  5. Be open-minded – To be a successful collaborator, you must remain open to new ideas. Often, your peers will come to different conclusions than you, or develop a different approach to projects. It’s critical you acknowledge others’ contributions and consider their ideas without judgment.
  6. Celebrate collaboration and the successes it brings – Taking time to recognise results and celebrate positive outcomes as a group is essential for effective collaboration. If you’re managing a team, set up performance rewards or bonuses for collaborative efforts to show employees teamwork is just as important as individual achievement.

But even if you’re not in a leadership position, it’s crucial you take time to commemorate achievements with your colleagues. Understanding the definition of collaboration, why it’s important and a few best practices for collaborating more effectively will help you be more successful in a team environment.

By leveraging these tips and information, you can develop the essential communication skills necessary for producing positive results and creating a more inspiring work environment.

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