5 Key Traits Of Successful Collaborators

Collaboration is an essential skill in almost every job. In settings from office environments to construction sites, cooperative teamwork is a necessity. Working successfully and respectfully with other people in order to achieve a larger goal can be incredibly rewarding, but can also be challenging and frustrating.

Here are five tips to keep your team on the right track.

1. Utilize Your Differences

We’ve all heard the adage “two heads are better than one,” and collaborative teamwork is a great example of why. When multiple people work on the same project, problematic situations are approached from different vantage points, and a variety of solutions are presented. Each member of the group has unique histories and experiences that guide him or her to come up with specific ideas. When multiple differing ideas are suggested, the discussion becomes that much richer. Remember that each person has different areas of expertise and knowledge, and be sure to use these differences to your team’s advantage when problem solving or task managing.

2. Be Supportive and Respectful

Support and respect are essential to positive collaborative discussions. Remember that since everyone’s ideas and opinions differ, you may not agree with all of them. While it’s not your job to passively agree with everything that is said, it IS your job to promote a supportive environment in which the entire team feels comfortable sharing ideas. Be sure to positively credit the ideas you agree with, and respectfully question those you don’t. Every person involved must feel safe to share ideas and solutions without fear of harassment or critical judgment.

3. Listen

This may seem elementary, but it is key that you actively listen to the people you are working with. Remember, collaboration is about everyone, not only you. It is essential that all members of the team take time to thoughtfully engage with every idea suggested, not merely wait for the next break in conversation to insert their own agenda. Listen to what others propose, and structure questions and discussion based on their points. Honestly consider and digest group opinions and ideas before you make up your mind. Listening to others may spur an idea you hadn’t thought of before!

4. Be Open to Development and Changing Ideas

Understand that opinions and solutions may change and evolve through discussion, and remember that this is positive! The point of collaboration is to use everyone’s ideas, experiences, and opinions to generate solutions. Changing opinions is natural and expected throughout this process, especially when practicing active listening during discussion. Understand that an idea that a colleague (or you!) espoused yesterday may not be his or her (or your) opinion today, and know that this development is positive and indicative of successful discussion and collaboration.

5. Speak Your Mind

When it is your turn to speak, make sure that you truly mean what you say. Group collaboration is not the place to pander to someone else’s ideas; for collaboration to produce a successful outcome, each member must present his or her own opinions truthfully. In a respectful and supportive environment, your ideas will be honored and discussed, and so it is essential that you present them honestly.