“People who collaborate well get back 18-24% of their time.”, says the author of Beyond Collaboration Overload, Rob Cross. Effective collaboration makes up much of your team's success and productivity. Are you doing it well?
Collaboration skills fit into every business' priorities. Don't leave them to chance – find out how to improve them and celebrate collaboration like you've never seen before.
What are collaboration skills?
Collaboration is “the situation of two or more people working together to create or achieve the same thing”. A truly collaborative workplace allows teams to work together effectively and surpass their capabilities.
So, collaboration capabilities are soft skills that allow you to work well with others, build relationships, resolve conflicts, achieve common goals, and make everyone feel included. Let’s look at some specific examples below.
Examples of collaboration skills
These are essential communication abilities that boost collaborative efforts, according to government officials:
- Written communication: A correct level of formality, structured writing with a greeting and signature, choosing the right communication channel for every purpose, and using a spellcheck
- Verbal communication: Using positive language, “I” statements instead of “you” statements, assertiveness without aggression, and a speaking style that highlights your positive attitude
- Nonverbal communication: Body language (an open posture and gestures that convey interest and animation), maintaining eye contact (without staring), smiling, and positive, genuine facial expressions
Image source: Indeed
The ability to adapt to arising challenges is one of the top skills employers look for. Successful collaboration requires employees to understand a different perspective, find alternative solutions, and stay calm when faced with changes in their responsibilities.
Empathy & active listening
It's not all about how you speak, but also how you listen: “The more you can find out about a person's needs, wants, interests, and situation, the easier it is to reach win-win or mutually beneficial outcomes.”. Asking your coworkers questions makes them feel valued and appreciated.
The most successful businesspeople spend 20-25% more time brainstorming ideas and possibilities with others. They're conscious of the value of asking others how their perspectives and abilities can fuel progress.
Patience improves relationships, facilitates mindful decisions, and reduces stress levels – both yours and those around you. The root of impatience usually lies within yourself. To discover it and be more patient, consider:
- Stress management techniques
- Frequent breaks
Successful collaboration isn't always about direct interaction. Didi Gurfinkel, co-founder and CEO of DataRails, explains: “In our increasingly data-driven age, more people from more departments need access to company information. […] By using tools that automatically import and process data across sources and formats, businesses can foster true digital collaboration for faster and smarter work, rather than having disparate departments.”
Delegate roles that capitalize on individual strengths within your team. Having too many or misaligned tasks on your plate is a straight path to burnout. Additionally, asking others for help makes them feel needed.
The best leaders have regular one-on-ones, dedicating at least 50% of meeting time to discovering people's interests and aspirations. Being an energizing manager means knowing your employees and finding tasks and responsibilities that engage each team member most effectively.
Healthy feedback helps to learn and grow. However, you have to do it right since it's easy to hurt others by making them feel inadequate. Thanks for the Feedback is a great read on how to cultivate healthy relationships and collaboration skills.
Experts at Rhythm Systems identified the 5 Cs framework for building an accountable team environment:
Image source: Rhythm Systems
Establishing them gives everyone clarity and reduces blame culture.
Inclusivity might mean creating guidelines and work policies to ensure everyone feels supported (more on them later). Ask for everyone's perspectives to make the whole team feel heard.
Effective time and project management helps to avoid stressful deadline rushes and balance responsibilities.
How to improve team collaboration skills
Set clear expectations and goals
Set SMART goals for measurable objectives. Collaborative work is more efficient when everyone understands the project vision. Promote transparency to build trust and establish a common purpose that brings people together.
Image source: Indeed
Build a strong feedback culture
An open feedback culture is only possible in environments where people feel safe because negative feedback can trigger self-doubt and frustration. Lallia Cherif identifies these factors as the most vital aspects of establishing a healthy base for collaboration:
- Express vulnerability
- Demonstrate your interest and availability to help
- Ask for permission to give feedback
- Lead with positive intent
- Don't avoid conflict
- Be specific
- Train your team to receive feedback
The best way to cultivate a strong feedback culture is to use employee feedback software that automates this process and makes it a permanent part of the working environment.
Image source: Management 3.0
Use collaboration tools
Here are just a couple of the many available solutions that facilitate collaboration:
- Slack: A productivity platform for cloud-based instant messaging with end-to-end encryption
- Microsoft Teams: Part of the Microsoft 365 suite, Teams provides chat, video conferencing, file storage, and integration with other Microsoft apps
- Zoom: A video conferencing platform that facilitates virtual meetings, webinars, and screen-sharing
- Google Workspace: Includes Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drive for collaborative document creation and storage
- Notion: An all-in-one workspace that combines note-taking, document collaboration, task management, and database features
Promote work-life balance and psychological safety
Personal collaboration skills, work performance, and well-being fail when employees feel stressed, overwhelmed, or unsafe. Psychological safety has been established as a key factor of great decision-making and innovative solutions, as you will find in The Fearless Organization.
To promote it in your organization, you can:
- Implement flexible work schedules
- Make breaks mandatory
- Offer useful benefits
- Help employees manage their workload by delegating efficiently
- Encourage open dialogue and offer your support
- Ask your employees about their opinions and needs regarding the workplace
Lead by example
Leaders can help their subordinates reach their full collaborative potential by providing support, autonomy, and trust. Here are some tips on how you can do so:
- Don't withhold vital information
- Try to always reach a consensus in disputes
- Give credit where it's due
- Place group goals above personal satisfaction
- Apologize for your mistakes and forgive others
Image source: BetterUp
Encourage diversity and inclusivity
Make sure everyone's voice is heard. Especially if you're working in a multinational collaborative team, focus on fostering respect for diversity by:
- Promoting sensitivity to all genders, religions, and ethnicities
- Watching out for situations when someone is often being talked over at meetings
- Eliciting everyone's input in the conversation
Provide training for each team member
Don't underestimate the power of soft teamwork skills in the collaborative process. Leaders tend to focus on technical training and miss out on the advantages of promoting soft skills. Consider workshops or courses in:
- Conflict resolution
- Giving constructive feedback
- Emotional intelligence
- Skill diversification
Hold regular team meetings
Both formal and informal meetings play a huge part in creating sustainable workplaces. They give the opportunity to exchange ideas, brainstorm, and solve problems freely. On top of that, they help relationships flourish, consequently boosting job satisfaction and feelings of meaningfulness.
Here are some ways you can hold regular team meetings that improve collaboration skills:
- Plan, considering your team’s dynamics
- Set clear objectives for what your team needs to achieve with the meeting
- Make it interactive with out-of-the-box meeting ideas like a well-being workshop, skill swap session, or appreciation round
- Send follow-ups with summaries and feedback requests to know what to adjust
These essential collaboration skills are what creative solutions are made of. Promoting them within the workspace means getting the most out of everyone's unique abilities – and multiplying the results by having people with different talents complement one another. Encourage your team to build collaborative skills to make sure you don't miss out on their collective creative potential.
How do you demonstrate collaboration skills?
You can demonstrate collaboration skills by practicing active listening, working on your emotional intelligence and conflict resolution, and recognizing other team members' strengths.
What are the 5 principles of collaboration?
Good communication, respect, empathy, flexible problem-solving, effective project management with delegation, and accountability.
What is a good example of collaboration?
A cross-functional group project where engineers, designers, and marketing specialists work together to create a mobile app. Their diverse abilities result in a user-friendly interface and successful marketing that attracts new customers and sales.
What are 4 ways to build collaboration?
Encourage inclusivity and diversity, promote a strong feedback culture, organize regular meetings, and use collaboration tools.
What makes a successful collaborative environment?
Effective collaboration is only possible in workplaces that promote diversity, inclusivity, mutual respect, and empathy. There needs to be a safe space for everyone to express themselves and trust each other.