Seven Ways To Survive A Collaboration

pic for collaboration

I’ve heard the saying that “collaboration is the new teamwork” but what does that really mean? Most of the workplaces I partner with contain many interconnected teams that live by their goals and deadlines. Each team is very focused, not always caring all that much about the individual team members or even about the other teams around them. As far as they are concerned, they have a job to do and there is no need to address their co-worker’s particular frustrations or challenges.

Jennifer was one of those team members who was struggling. She was working to keep up with all the new excel programs and constantly lagged behind in her deliverables. As soon as she finally mastered one program, she was asked to move on and learn another. She felt that she would never catch up, as the team kept marching forward at a clip. Couldn’t someone just stop for a moment and check-in with her about what she was having difficulty understanding? Didn’t anyone care? How would she ever be able to collaborate effectively if she constantly felt behind?

How can leaders survive a collaboration when they feel they are constantly playing catch-up?

1. Ask for help

When leaders are drowning it is critical to reach out and ask for guidance and help. After trying to resolve our issues by ourselves, we need to recognize when it is time to say, “I just can’t complete this without additional input from someone else.” When we do meet with either a co-worker or boss, make sure to clarify what is being shared. Do not walk away from that meeting until you feel confident with a clear understanding of how to proceed forward.

2. Get to know the strengths of other team members

Another empowering part of collaborating with others is identifying their strengths. This enables leaders to know whom to approach when they have a particular issue. In one manufacturing firm, one leader was struggling with a language barrier. They were able to overcome their miscommunication by including a team member who was fluent in both languages.

3. Keep everyone updated

When working with others it is so important to inform everyone on your progress or obstacles. One leader I helped was unaware that he was not sharing the big picture. The result was a slew of rumors circulating.

  • Set up check-ins for each piece of the deliverable you are working
  • Send information ahead to allow team members to think about how they will respond
  • Share all the information so others are not left in the dark with only partial facts
  • Be truthful

4. Roll up your sleeves

Just as you may want co-workers to reach out when you are in trouble, make sure to provide help when those you are collaborating with need assistance. Be a leader that others feel they can approach and ask questions. Instead of judging when things don’t fall in place, jump in and offer alternative ways to resolve a problem. Your perspective may open up doors of thinking.

5. Help set the goals

Be part of the solution by helping the team to set the best goals. Develop SMART goals that reflect the direction everyone needs to move. Remember make the goals- specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and with timeframes.

6. Spend extra time learning

If we run into a jam and need more time to understand a concept or process, put that on your calendar. Every leader digests information at a different pace, so be honest of your abilities and challenges. Only you know what is required to be the best contributor in a collaboration.

7. Speak up for others

The best collaborators express their ideas clearly and respectfully, while still promoting the suggestions of team members.

  • Lead by recognizing the gifts of others
  • Lead by piggy-backing on what co-workers share
  • Lead by integrating the many opinions offered and evaluated
  • Lead by knowing that 1+1=3 is a true collaboration

How have you survived a collaboration? What leadership skills did you utilize?



10 thoughts on “Seven Ways To Survive A Collaboration

  1. Excellent. Very important and practical points indeed. Root cause analysis, going in the details of problems and inviting suggestions / alternates from concerned persons is essential. Yes…… another thing also matters……… i.e. Patience.
    Zafarmanzoor, Sr. Executive, Pakistan.

  2. Patience with ourselves as well as our team members is also a great point. Leaders need to take the time to identify the skills they may need to learn and help others with their challenges as well.

    Thanks Zafar!

  3. In one of my best collaborations, we appreciated each other’s strengths and knowledge. Instead of all trying to be an expert – we let each other shine and supported each other to be in the know without going deep. If we were all doing the same thing, we weren’t using our collaboration as effectively as possible.

    Great tips – will share!

    ~ Alli

  4. Hi Terri,

    Excellent post. Your point about asking for help stuck out for me. That one can be a tough if you let your inner critic convince you that it is a sign of weakness. In actuality the opposite is true. It’s a sign of leadership to recognize and source the help required. Not only might it get the job done, it also engages others to add value and strengthens the team’s collaborative muscle.

    Will be sharing this post.


  5. Your collaboration sounds very respectful and focused on bringing out the best in others. That strategy will ultimately lead to high performance and substantive results. And yes each person in a collaboration plays an important part.
    Thanks Alli for sharing your experience in collaborating with us!

  6. Sometimes if we don’t ask for help we can derail an entire project because we won’t be able to contribute our best. I also believe that other people feel good in being able to share their lessons in helping us grow.
    Thanks Terri for your great additions!

  7. Great post Terri!

    Surviving collaboration in the expat world has emphasized how important it is to share cultural differences. Seemingly little things here can break down a collaboration very quickly.

    Some cultures are on time all the time. Others don’t see that as a priority.

    Some follow the rules to to letter, others have lived in places with corrupt governments so long that that they don’t trust that any rules are in their best interest and have no issue breaking them.

    Some admit mistakes, others see that as a sign of weakness.

    Some come from places where people from certain nations are treated as less, others come from nations where all people are treated as equal.

    As a result – collaborations here require a lot of patience, a lot of seeking first to understand, a lot of laughter, and a desire to learn from each other and a huge does of peacemaking.

  8. What fascinating insights you have learned when collaborating with different cultures! The same need for patience and respect can apply to different work styles and personalities on any team we may be part of. Each of us brings a unique perspective with gifts and strengths and leaders who want to have successful collaborations must recognize the differences. We need to lead by helping others find their talents and play to them.

    Thanks so much Chery for sharing your deep understanding of collaborating and supporting one another!

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