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The 3 Steps to Maximizing Your Collaboration Skills

by Thuy Sindell, PhD. and Milo Sindell, MS.
Published on June 10, 2014

Unless you live and work alone in a cave,it is almost certain that you have work relationships that involve some level of collaboration. Collaboration is vital not just for getting work done as efficiently as possible; it is also critical for optimum workplace satisfaction, because true collaboration increases an individual’s morale, sense of accomplishment, and identity within their team and company. As a leader or an aspiring one, you should be consistently reflecting on how you collaborate and seeking opportunities to raise your “collaboration game.” Not only will being a strong collaborator raise your productivity and job satisfaction, it will reinforce to others that you are a leader.

Every day, without thinking about it, you head to work and spend the day interacting in a number of collaborative relationships. You might collaborate with your closest team member, your supervisor, someone in another department, or maybe someone in a satellite or overseas office. When collaboration is easy, the process flows effortlessly. You explore ideas and approaches to the current project or task, go back and forth over how to get it done, divide duties according to individual skills, and move forward to complete the job. Sometimes, however, you wish it would be this easy. Occasionally, things just don’t click with the other person, despite a mutual desire to be successful.

Start with a strong foundation

But why are some relationships easy and fluid while others feel like an uphill battle? In any human interaction, there is a host of things of things going on that can influence the outcome. In order to maximize effective workplace collaborative relationships, they must have the following:

  • Clear objectives
  • Clear roles
  • Trust that each party will fulfill what they have agreed to do
  • Communication that is open and timely

Optimize and refine

Fine-tuning your collaboration skills begins with assessing all of your existing collaborative relationships.

  • First, confirm the people with whom you have strong relationships. Think about the personality traits you and the other person share that enable you to work so well together.
  • Next, think about the complimentary skills the two of you share and how they mesh together.
  • Finally, ask what enables strong ongoing collaboration to take place.

Tackle your challenging relationships

Once you identify the current collaborative relationships that are working well, look to the collaborative relationships that seem strained, difficult, or non-existent. Identify what causes friction between you and the other person when you communicate or try to work together. Think about situations in which you don’t see eye-to-eye on, and think of approaches or strategies that would spell great success if you were able to agree more often.

In order to make your more challenging collaborative relationships stronger, uncover what elements undermine greater collaborative success. Don’t be afraid to look in the mirror: often, others reflect the more difficult aspects of ourselves in the way they react to us. Identify any triggers that set off a reaction either within you or in the other person. Also, identify what you can do to become more agreeable, more flexible, and more open in any collaborative situation. Focus on making your communication more positive, dynamic and solution-oriented, rather than focusing on your position and the other person’s skills, traits, or work habits.


Spending a few minutes each month to consider how you can improve the relationships you have with the people you work with can have a powerful impact on how much work gets done, as well as impact the feelings that people have about achieving results.

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