Most of us have jobs that require us to work closely with others, at least once in a while. Sometimes, these collaborations run smoothly all on their own, but more often they require some real focus and effort on our part to function productively. Here are a few tips to keep in mind for your next collaboration challenge.
(Photo Credit: vuhung/Flickr)
1. Expect everything to take longer than it would take if you were doing it alone.
When you’re working on your own, it can be easy to make quick decisions and move forward with a plan. The pace is different when you’re working with others. You’d think that things would go faster with more people involved – but actually, just the opposite is often true. The benefit of assigning more than one person to a project or task isn’t that it gets done more quickly, it’s that more people are able to contribute to its completion, and that takes time.
2. Speak up – it’s your job to share your opinion.
You have a responsibility to engage and contribute when you’re working as a part of a team. Invest yourself in the work and process of communication, even when your opinion differs from the group.
“If you don’t like something, it’s your job to say no,” Ken Yang, co-founder and director of product at Comedia Design, told Hightail, when asked about his creative process within a collaboration. “Whether you’re an employee, a contractor, or a vendor, you’re there because of your expertise.”
3. Listen and be open.
They say that the only people who can change others’ minds are the people who are open enough to have their minds changed, which isn’t easy. When you’re collaborating with others and trying to make decisions, it’s important to listen, which in part means being open. Expressing your own ideas is part of the work, but so is genuinely listening to others and even allowing the process to change your mind.
4. Encourage everyone to contribute.
Often, in groups, one or two people end up having the loudest voices (contributing the most) while another few into the background and hardly participate at all. Not everyone finds it easy to jump into a conversation; introverts, for example, often benefit from being asked for their thoughts directly or from being given the option to submit their ideas in some other way, like through writing. You can help to bring everyone into the fold and encourage progress in the right direction with these techniques, whether you’re in charge of leading the group or not.
5. Don’t keep score.
While it’s a good idea to make a point of trying to bring everyone into the conversation, trying to ensure that the work is divided up evenly is a waste of time and is actually counterproductive. Of course everyone should pull their weight, but it’s also okay for people to play to their strengths, and often this means that the work doesn’t come out exactly evenly for everyone at the end of each and every project. It’s never a good idea to keep score in any relationship, and the workplace is no exception.
6. Goof off and have some fun once in a while.
Humor and laughter bond groups together and goofing off once in a while can actually make teams more productive. A lot of good things come when people are genuinely happy and enjoying themselves. So, try to do your part to make the collaboration work pleasant. This is another important way in which you can contribute, and a fun one at that.
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