All Together Now: 5 effective ways to make the year ahead a group effort

Collaboration drives contemporary life, and acing this skill will help you get more from each day. From leading a work team to participating in a study group, to having a fulfilling social life, collaboration skills are key to building and maintaining those relationships. Are you the best collaborator you can be? Consider these 5 ways to be a better collaborator.

1. Communication, communication, communication

Consider that your mantra for effective teamwork. Working with others requires strong communication skills, and chief among them is listening. Ever find yourself nodding, simply waiting for a gap in the conversation to jump in with your opinion? Or saying, “Don’t worry, I’m listening…” while scrolling through emails on your phone? Make it your resolution to STOP, and work on becoming a better listener.

Try actively supporting your teammates by:

• Silencing and stowing away your electronic devices (as in out of sight, not just face down beside you);

• Maintaining appropriate eye contact and noting physical indicators of mood such as posture, expression, perspiration and other body language;

• Empathizing with and acknowledging what’s being said, without taking over the conversation with personal asides or advice;

• Asking questions for clarity, without casting judgement.

Active listening makes you a more effective communicator, and therefore a stronger collaborator. Try it – we all should!

2. Using the right communication tools

Related to the first point, choose your communication tools with an eye towards effective collaboration. Use digital tools like Slack to ask questions and tap into the hive mind, calendar invites to schedule meetings and calls, project management platforms like Asana to keep everyone in the loop on progress/deliverables, and email to communicate more formally about issues and courses of action.

But never underestimate analog forms of communication: sometimes it’s actually faster to phone (or to jog over to someone else’s cubicle) rather than dive into a series of texts or emails. It also allows you to avoid misreading tone in forms of communication such as email.

3. Valuing diversity

In our increasingly connected world, diversity is a strength that Canadians are uniquely equipped to tap into. Canada’s multiculturalism is an asset for business and education in an era of globalization and international collaboration. Other forms of diversity include gender diversity, diversity in educational background and field of study, work history, geography within Canada, and so forth.

By incorporating the outlook and experiences of those who are different from ourselves, we gain extra layers of expertise and perspective, and tap into additional networks. You can promote diversity by making your teams more diverse and by valuing perspectives different from your own — i.e. cool it with the “Oh no, not an English major weighing in on statistics,” jokes in your study group!

4. Defining roles and tasks

Every project needs a leader, whether that’s a team leader or a coordinator tasked with maintaining communication, and checking in with others on their deliverables — whether those deliverables are creating monthly sales reports or booking the spa for your #squad getaway.

A leader/coordinator ensures everyone knows what their responsibilities are, when deliverables are due, and fosters communication between all team members. Sometimes the word “leader” can get bogged down with other connotations, so thinking of the role as “air-traffic controller” or “traffic cop” can be less loaded, and more approachable.

5. Respecting the time

Finally, time management is a skill that is crucial to effective collaboration. (TIP: If you see people scrolling through their phones or gazing at their laptops during a meeting, it may be because the meeting is running too long!)

If a meeting starts without a reasonable hard stop time, be the one to suggest one. And hey: why not recommend that you reward yourselves with team pizza afterwards!

By Yuki Hayashi

February 24, 2020