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?