Nine attributes of highly effective collaborators

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Jennifer Warawa
by Jennifer Warawa
3 October 2014

Collaboration. It’s not just a buzzword or a trend, it’s a way of working that is becoming more essential every day. But how do you master the skill and what habits should effective collaborators pick up?

Whether you’re working in a large company navigating a matrix organisation or running a small business, in charge of collaborating with your entire ecosystem (customers, vendors, employees, etc.), how you collaborate can make or break your success. A key foundational element of effective collaboration is building trust, and these nine attributes are essential to becoming that trusted collaborator everyone loves to work with.

1. Be transparent. There is a difference between telling the truth and being transparent. Transparency is about telling the truth before you’re asked and divulging all the important information along the way. Transparency builds trust because people will never feel as though you’re keeping something from them.

 2. Say what you are going to do and follow through. No one wants to collaborate with someone who drops the ball, even if it just happens on occasion. Good collaborators are effective at judging how long it will take them to get something done and then manage their schedule to deliver on time. They can be taken at their word and be counted on and because of that, people love working with them.

3. Allow for a little give and take. Collaboration isn’t about getting what you want all the time and everyone else collaborating for your benefit. A question great collaborators ask themselves is, "What am I contributing to this relationship and how am I supporting the greater good?" People will be more likely to collaborate to help you if you collaborate when they need help as well.

4. Listen to understand, not to respond. People like to be heard, and know their ideas and thoughts are being taken into consideration. In fact, that’s a key element of collaboration. If you want to be regarded as an effective collaborator, you need to ensure you’re listening (truly listening) to those you collaborate with and making changes when it makes sense based on their feedback.

5. Stick to your guns. Great leaders and great collaborators are passionate about their work and know what a successful outcome looks like. They also frequently have high standards and morals that they stick to. Both of these attributes make them exciting to work with. When it comes to what you know needs to be done, or what your moral compass is telling you, make sure you don’t compromise and take the easy way out. Stick to your guns and do what you know is right, and you’ll earn much respect along the way.

6. Know which battles to fight. Life isn’t about being right 100% of the time, and effective collaborators know this and because of that, will let go in areas where they could ‘take it or leave it’. Just because you prefer A over B, doesn’t mean you should always fight for A. Look for areas where other people are super passionate and compromise when possible.

 7. Be authentic. People expect you to be real, but it’s worth repeating. In order to be an effective collaborator, you have to know who you are, what you stand for, and how your talents, beliefs, values, etc. will benefit the challenge at hand. Others will appreciate your feedback, and trust that you’ll always give honest feedback. 

8. Be kind. There’s a lot to be done; we get it. However, it’s important to remind yourself that there is a way to get things done without making enemies along the way. People work harder, smarter, faster when they like who they are working with so if you want to drive optimum efficiency and effectiveness, be kind to those you want to (and need to) collaborate with.

And finally...

9. Step up. Collaboration isn’t about doing the bare minimum, but occasionally going above and beyond in unexpected ways. When people know you’ll step up when needed, collaboration is much easier.

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