Management Matters: Do You Collaborate Effectively?

What is a good collaboration? Today – few are trained to excel in all of the disciplines needed to complete a project successfully alone, so collaborations at work clearly make a lot of sense, intellectually and financially. But effective collaboration is often more problematic than successful.

If you want to be an effective collaborative partner, her are some ideas to help you make that happen:

  • Rather than jump in and assume that everyone understands what makes a successful collaboration (and thinks just like you do!), if you really want to work well with your fellow collaborators, some parameters need to be discussed and defined up front:
  • Be clear about responsibilities and timelines: who is going to do what and when they will do it, with a defined end date.
  • Develop a shared understanding about how resources will be provided and identify who will supply resources needed for certain aspects of the project.
  • Define how information will be communicated (what medium will be used and the frequency) and how conflicts will be resolved when they occur.
  • Flexibility is a key ingredient in any collaboration. Articulate clearly what you expect of people when that is required. Define how you will all keep the lines of communication open. Understand that we all have preferred ways of receiving communication – so make sure that everyone knows how communication will be handled: meetings, virtual meetings, phone, e-mail, or even letters, and communicate frequently.
  • Tell your collaborators what you are finding and learning as the collaboration proceeds – and ask what they are finding and learning. Modifications may need to be made. Expect that.
  • Share information and successes as well as problems. Rather than ask ‘who needs to know this?’ ask yourself ‘who might want to know this?”
  • Don’t assume silence is golden and all is well. Periodic updates keep everyone in the loop. Sooner is often better than later.
  • Let go of idea ‘ownership.’ Rather than being concerned about whose idea it was or who did what aspect of the project – the hallmark of effective collaboration is all about sharing in the outcome.

If you are involved in a successful collaboration, the people involved with you take pride in the part that each one plays and understand that a successful outcome cannot be achieved by any one person. If someone thinks they can go it alone and treat their fellow collaborators as if that’s the case, they just may find that the next time they WILL be on their own.

Joni Daniels is Principal of Daniels & Associates, a management consulting practice that specializes in developing people in the areas of leadership and management, interpersonal effectiveness and efficiency, skill- building, and organizational development interventions. With over 30 years of experience, she is a sought after resource for Fortune 500 clients, professional organizations, higher education, media outlets and business publications. Joni can be reached at