Collaboration is essential in any field. Whether you are collaborating between team members, collaborating with clients, or even collaborating with competitors or individuals who are hostile to your cause, there is an art to working together successfully. Here are 5 keys to successful collaboration:
One of the most important keys to collaborative success is that all of the individuals involved must care about the outcome and must be invested in the process. If all parties have not bought in to the process, the discussions and the effort put into the process will be unbalanced leading to feelings of resentment; resentment breeds anger. Unfortunately, sometimes it will be impossible to get everyone to place the same amount of importance on a collaborative task. If the group can discuss its level of commitment openly at the beginning of the task, it may help all of the members understand the level of effort that should be the standard for all involved and could help minimize negative feelings.
As with any group process, there has to a strong leader guiding the collaborative process. Naming an interim leader and then allowing a natural leader to emerge is likely one of the best ways to ensure that collaboration goes smoothly. Sometimes groups attempt to force a leader. However, if the group members are not responding well to that choice, adjustments should be made. Also, it is a mistake to assume that the group can work without a leader; a lack of leadership will lead to unnecessary chaos.
Another great way to ensure that collaborations go well is to make sure the process has a clear game plan. Instead of blindly navigating through the collaboration, the leader should have a detailed plan with established deadlines. When everyone understands what they are required to do and when they should have it completed by, it provides less room for misunderstandings and conflict.
Coaching can also occur in a more personal way. When members of the team are struggling, other team members can step in to offer encouragement. There is no reason that collaboration has to be a sterile process. Team members should get to know one another. Host a luncheon for team members. Have a group work session with some ice breaking games. Establishing real relationships can go a long way to making working relationships go well.
Communication is essential. There should be open lines of communication between team members and team leaders at all times. Whether a message board system is established or chains of emails are used, all team members should have the opportunity to weigh in on questions and concerns whenever possible. The more team members that are involved in key decisions, the more invested these team members will be in the success of the final project. Communication also prevents misunderstandings that can lead to conflict.
Finally, it is important that you consider all of the suggestions made by each team member. No matter how off base you feel the team member is, the team should take at least a moment to acknowledge the suggestion and consider it. Validating the input of all team members keeps up team morale.