5 Ways to Collaborate for Success
I’ve been working from home long before the pandemic. As a consultant, speaker and writer, I work with organizations that are spread across the country. Sometimes I’m part of a virtual team, other times I partner with other consultants, and occasionally I work independently on my own projects.
Being self-employed and not having a consistent work team, I’ve learned how to get the most of my collaborations. I admit, some of the lessons have come out of challenging situations.
Whether you’re self-employed or work in an organization, many of these tips will help you not only get the most out of working with others, but will also help you shine.
1. Know yourself
While this may seem obvious, I’m always surprised at how some people are unaware, or unwilling, to see their personal strengths and weaknesses. A good place to start is to think about what comes easy to you. When you get a new project, where do you roll up your sleeves and dive in? Now where do you procrastinate? Your areas of procrastination can be a great place to collaborate.
Even if you are a team of one, there are still opportunities to divide up work.
For me, I collaborate with a virtual team of fellow self-employed entrepreneurs. As a big picture person, I’m often the lead on developing the strategy and brainstorming ideas. But when it comes time to drill down on the tactics and get into the detail, I defer to those who enjoy diving into the nuts and bolts. By being clear on my strengths, and getting help on my weaknesses, not only do I take some of the load off my shoulders, but the end product is so much better than I could achieve on my own.
2. Focus on your passion
This can be the sweet spot in many collaborations. Knowing and embracing your passion, and sharing this passion with those around you. It can lead to some pretty amazing working relationships.
I was recently sharing with a client my excitement for giving a workshop on The Power of Storytelling. As a writer and former journalist, I love to tell stories. While the workshop didn’t relate to the project I was working on, my client was intrigued by what I had to say.
A few weeks later, she was tasked with having a series of stories developed for a campaign. Remembering our conversation, she immediately called and hired me. She told me she knew it was important to have me as the writer as I would bring a fresh approach due to my passion for storytelling. The end result – a series of stories that broke the corporate mold and truly told the personal impact of programs on residents.
3. Be generous
Whether you’re billing by the hour or get paid a salary, you can still be generous with your time. No, this doesn’t mean you have to work for free. Rather, you hold space for people to run ideas by you or get advice.
Knowing these conversations are seldom planned, I try to avoid holding back-to-back meetings. By leaving space in my calendar, not only is there room for these spontaneous moments, but I’m also able to be fully present in the conversation instead of watching the clock, hoping the meeting ends on time.
More often than not, these conversations result in more work (which is a good thing when you’re a consultant) or a referral as the person felt heard and respected.
4. Team approach
When I was working as a senior manager, and now as a consultant, I always see myself as an equal member of the team. Starting with this mindset ensures that you take everyone’s input into account. Even when you are the project lead, you recognize and value the role each member of the team plays.
Think about this. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose worked for a dictator. You know the person who barks out orders, has all the answers and only wants to hear their words said back to them. Did this bring out the best in you? Probably not. You likely went through the motions, waiting for the project to end or went looking for a new job.
Now what about the time you worked on a project and the lead took time to hear everyone’s input? When you spoke, they didn’t rush you and you felt they cared about what you had to say. I’m sure you went the extra mile and were excited about the collaboration, even if the project wasn’t your favourite.
You get to decide how you want to show up on a team. I know for me; I do my best to ensure all voices are heard.
5. Know when to move on
But sometimes, despite all your efforts, the collaboration is challenging or even toxic. This is when you need to work on your exit plan.
If you’re an employee, it could be requesting a move within the organization or looking for a new job. Sometimes leaving is the best thing, not only for your mental health, but also your career growth. I know I’ve left jobs where I felt I was not seen as an equal team member.
As a consultant, it can mean firing a client or saying no to a project. This can be very hard to do as it means walking away from money.
But by saying no to something you don’t want; you are saying yes to something better.
Every time I’ve said no to a project or cut ties with a client, a new endeavour has come my way. One that I truly enjoy and involves meaningful and exciting collaboration opportunities.
I encourage you to think about how you collaborate with others. What collaborations bring out the best in you? Now what do you do to bring out the best in others?
As we all pivot in this everchanging reality, our collaborations will chart the path for the future. Let’s make sure it’s the path you want to be on.