Collaboration Overload. It’s afflicting everyone these days. There are so many methods to collaborate and communicate with one another: email, text, messenger, Slack, Zoom, Teams, Discord – the list goes on and on. While it’s great to have so many options, it can feel overwhelming to keep up with them all. Great collaboration can help you be more innovative and creative at work. Poor collaboration, on the other hand, wastes a lot of time and can lead to overwhelm, burnout, and high turnover. Watch the video below or the text that follows to learn more about how and why collaboration is one of 5 key skill sets I help my clients develop.
A recent interview in McKinsey Quarterly with Rob Cross, author of Beyond Collaboration Overload, described Cross’s research on collaboration. He found that high performers collaborate differently from most people – and that makes them about 20% more efficient in their work.
Strong collaborations can bring great benefits – more innovation, better problem-solving, and an ability to get your pet projects over the finish line. In other words, effective collaboration generates results that will get you ahead in your career.
On the other hand, when collaboration isn’t happening or isn’t going well, the toll is high. If you’re not collaborating, chances are you’re doing too much yourself or doing too much in your team. If you are trying to collaborate and it’s not going well, that’s also problematic. Poor working relationships and conflicts can be a major drain on your time and energy. Both situations are overwhelming. They lead to attrition and turnover. That adds even more pressure and overload to the people who remain – until eventually they succumb to the stress and burnout and feel they need to leave too.
Without effective collaboration, you will struggle to be effective – and this becomes more true with every step you take up the corporate ladder.
According to Cross, people who collaborate well do these three things:
- They focus on bringing others along with them, instead of plowing ahead on their own.
- They set a tone for collaboration and set clear expectations to ensure success.
- They build strong relationships that aren’t simply about the work.
Great collaborators focus on bringing others along with them.
When you’re a Manager, Director, or VP, you can’t bury your head in your work and focus on your own productivity if you want to get ahead. It’s not even enough to expand your focus only to your own team. There is very little you can accomplish solely within your own team or department. To make a real impact, you need to get others on board. You’ll need engagement and participation from your peers and their teams. Without that, you won’t get the results you need to get ahead.
Good collaborators are open to exploring possibilities with others for how they can drive work together. They ask questions like, “How can we find new solutions? How can we solve problems together?” They understand that their part of the organization is just one piece of a bigger whole. They know that it’s the interconnections where work comes to life. They believe that working together is the way to find solutions and make things happen. They are also good at sharing ideas in a way that aligns with what other people care about. They’re able to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and consider what’s in it for them. They have the power of persuasion to enroll others in their projects.
With decades of experience in change management and team coaching, I’ve helped many leaders learn exactly how to do these things. When you have a clear strategy for forging partnerships and creating buy-in, your success is practically inevitable.
Great collaborators set clear expectations for themselves and others.
The best collaborators make relationships a priority. Relationships aren’t something that you’ll get to after your work is done. They ARE the work. Successful professionals know this. They set standards for themselves about how much they’ll collaborate. They’re clear about their values and goals.
They also set clear expectations within the collaborations themselves. When coaching teams, I saw over and over again how hard it is to build trust when there are unspoken or fuzzy expectations. Inevitably someone ends up disappointed. Good collaborators know this and make a point of creating a clear, shared vision of what the collaboration will look like.
Great collaborators build human connections.
And finally, great collaborators make a point of getting to know other people. They forge connections that aren’t just about the work. This is one of the building blocks to positioning your ideas later on. When you know what matters to someone, it’s easier to connect the dots from your idea to their goals. That’s the core to creating “win-win” solutions.
Some clients I’ve worked with have been concerned about work becoming “too personal.” There is such a thing as sharing TMI (too much information). When that’s a concern, we work through a specific framework that helps them get clear about what they want to share – and don’t – about themselves. That way they can build an authentic connection – not one that feels awkward or uncomfortable.
Great collaboration – or what I call Partnership – is one of the core components I teach my clients to help them become effective and successful managers. If you’d like to know more, watch my free webinar. In it, I cover the five key shifts professionals need to make to get ahead in their careers. Partnership is absolutely one of them.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed from collaboration overload, let’s talk. When you have a clear strategy, partnerships are generative and fun. Let’s get you moving in that direction, so you can get that next promotion and pay raise. Schedule a free career breakthrough call with me today to talk more about how we can work together.