“No man is an island,” the English poet John Donne once wrote. Nearly 400 years later, if you’re into creative, ambitious work, that sentiment is truer than ever — collaboration is often essential.
It also might not feel like your strong suit. Maybe you feel weird without your headphones in and would much rather work alone. But even then, chances are your efforts are part of a greater whole that hinges on your abilities as a collaborator to succeed — so you might as well speak up.
It’s an area where we can all stand to improve, and Grammarly has you covered. Here are six tips to help you become a better collaborator.
What Is Collaboration, Anyway?
Working in collaboration means everyone can contribute ideas — so it’s different from the kind of teamwork where a group marches in unified lockstep to realize one person’s plan or goal. Collaborating means hearing people out, melding different ideas together and building toward a shared objective.
Put another way, if you’re not steadily communicating about what you’re trying to accomplish and how best to go about it, you’re not really collaborating.
Part of Communicating Is Listening and Understanding
Collaboration doesn’t work if only one person does all the talking. Fostering a collaborative space means making room for other people to share their ideas — even the shy ones. (That said, making a point of giving a quiet person the floor doesn’t help much if they feel suddenly called on like a daydreamer who zoned out in algebra class.)
Part of getting people to open up and share valuable ideas is helping them feel like they’ll be heard. That means being patient and generous — a facilitator, not an autocrat.
Correct: That’s an interesting idea. How do you see it fitting into this project?
Also, if you are one of the quieter ones present for a collaborative discussion, recognize that you’re in the room to participate, not just observe. That’s not always the case in life — and yes, people who think all meetings should be collaborative are insufferable — but in this case, it’s good to show you’re engaged by saying what you’re thinking.
Keep the Conversation Open-Ended
One of the challenges of the collaborative process is getting past the blue sky stage where people throw out ideas, and onto distilling the results into an actionable plan with defined deliverables. When you’re trying to clarify what you’ll actually be doing,it helps to ask questions rather than issue decrees, like so:
Correct: What problem are we trying to solve?
Incorrect: Our next iteration just needs to look more like the competition’s.
Correct: What timeframe will it take to achieve meaningful progress?
Incorrect: I need this done and dusted before Thursday’s board meeting.
A useful strategy to get people on the same page is to try repeating their points back in your own words. This helps crystallize the takeaways and can reveal any discrepancies or misunderstandings that need to be addressed early on. It can also be worthwhile to capture key ideas on a whiteboard, sticky notes or a shared screen.
Originally published at www.glassdoor.com