Collaboration rarely happens on its own. It takes a motivating spark, a reason that creates value for multiple people, a trusting environment and time. When true collaboration happens in the workplace the value added to the organization is exponential. Collaboration creates long-term buy-in and often creates working relationships that last for years, spurring even more collaborative initiatives.
Below is a list of principals I have noticed that should be in place, or at least recognized as beneficial, for a collaborative environment to grow. When these types of ground rules are not shared by all collaborative work usually halts, and it becomes difficult to reset and work on new projects and initiatives.
1. Use Whatever Tool Set That Gets the Job Done
Never limit a technology tool set to only what is best known to you and your team. By dictating that no other tools can be used to collaborate other than those currently in place, you limit both who will be willing to work with you and your team, and new innovations may go unnoticed and unmastered. Try out a new tool and you will learn in the process.
2. Allow For Disagreements But Not Arguments
For any collaboration to work and produce results open and frank conversations need to take place. However, if those conversations get personal or are not focused entirely on the work there is a chance misunderstanding can occur. It’s best to keep a tone of respect in all situations, but if lines are crossed apologizing and moving forward anew is just an honest, heart-felt conversation away.
3. No Holding Grudges (Assume Positive Intent)
Decisions must be made during a collaborative project. Some decisions may not go your way or be how you think they should go. This cannot become a source of frustration. Once decisions are made and the group has moved on, so must all members of the group. If you find that you cannot move on, you should remove yourself from the team until you are able to get past the decisions that didn’t go your way.
4. Trust Is A Must
No work moves forward in any lasting way without staff members trusting each other and their leaders. This is such a basic, foundational aspect to collaboration it’s almost not worth mentioning it. If you have not established a trusting relationship with colleagues you must begin there and repair in order to move to a collaborative space.
5. Don’t Sign Up For A One Time Thing
Collaboration needs to be a attitude and an approach toward work that lasts over time. Working on projects with multiple people and multiple teams is rewarding, but takes a commitment.
My hope is that this list inspires you to contribute your own ideas about how to promote a collaborative work environment. Please share your thoughts with your colleagues.