TEAM BUILDING

How Smart People Collaborate for Success

Solo performers can shine, but working together can yield greater results. Here are seven tips for improving collaboration.
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Most experts agree that collaboration in business consistently provides greater accomplishment. When it works, the combined brainpower of intelligent people can solve complex problems and achieve amazing results.

Still many people hesitate before engaging others in their process. It's understandable. Most people have horror stories of a collaboration that went bad. And often it seems a hassle to manage the needs and personalities of others when stakes are high and time is short. Still, effective collaboration can create breakthroughs and make leaders shine. Remember, you don't have to do it alone. Here are seven tips to help you master the art of collaboration and make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

1. Choose Participants Carefully

Successful collaboration begins with picking the appropriate people for the task at hand. Don't just ask for volunteers or draw straws. Give careful consideration to the skills, experience, motivations, and compatibility of the people you invite to the group. Depending upon the scope of the project, you may want all like-minded people or a blend of perspectives.

2. Remove Quiet Politeness

What good is working with a bunch of smart people if they won't be honest and sharing? People need to be willing to open themselves and be challenged. Creative conflict is powerful and productive. Find innovative, fun ways to stimulate passionate debate. Reward openness and authenticity with admiration. Real groundbreaking ideas only surface when people go all in and get vulnerable.

3. Establish Communication Protocols

People collaborate better when engagement is structured and simple. Setting up specific communication guidelines helps your participants focus on the ideas rather than worrying about missing something or chasing people. Determine in advance who will talk to whom, when and how often. Let people know which channels are appropriate. Perhaps create a specific place on your intranet or use collaboration software to centralize interaction. Get full buy-in and clarification on the rules so it's clear to all when a violation occurs and it can easily remedied.

4. Use a Specific Ideation Process

It's important to put method to the madness. Random brainstorms with little or no structure will exclude some from the process while allowing others to dominate the conversation. Do your homework and learn effective facilitation techniques that will surface creativity. Outline in advance the people, processes and resources required so your participants are free to focus on the work and not the logistics.

5. Give Requirement and Permission

Nothing is more frustrating then working in a group where contributions are unequal, or worse, unreliable. Develop clear guidelines for responsibilities and build in accountability. Articulate deadlines and consequences if someone falls short. Make sure people know they have permission to speak up if others are not pulling their weight. Better to have the small distraction of rancor early on then a systemic failure near the deadline. Quickly remove non-compliant people before they destroy the trust and morale of the group.

6. Work with Respect

Few go into a collaborative project with intentions of being disrespectful; yet it often happens, verbally or non-verbally. Disrespect is shown by being late, missing deadlines, being unprepared, hogging the conversation, quiet politeness or distraction by irrelevant discussion. If everyone shows respect by focusing each minute of activity on the common objectives of the group, the required time will be short and the results will be plentiful.

7. Broadcast Recognition and Gratitude

Give praise, credit, and affirmation often, loudly and where they are due. If others in your office see the positive attributes of collaboration, they will be encouraged by your leadership to make effective collaboration pervasive and help establish a culture of developing groundbreaking results.

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IMAGE: Pensive glance/Flickr
Last updated: Jun 21, 2013

KEVIN DAUM | Columnist

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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