As a college student, I've spent a lot of time building up my collaboration skills. I’m constantly working on group projects for classes or working alongside others at the various jobs I've had throughout school and during the summers. What I've learned is that working with others may seem like an easy concept until the time comes. We all know that you can get things done faster and more effectively when you work in teams. But when you're new to workplace collaboration, you don't always know how to manage team dynamics, communicate effectively, or create plans for meeting deadlines.
I think a major reason that myself and my peers have struggled with collaboration at times is because everyone works differently. Some people are harder to work with than others. Some people work quickly, while others like to take their time. When teams don't know how to manage these dynamics, things can quickly devolve into certain members trying to handle everything on their own, which is never effective.
Having watched and been a part of many teams, I now know that it's not enough to just be good at your job. To do your best work, you need to learn how to work well with others. That's why I wanted to put together some tips on how to improve collaboration skills while successfully dealing with the struggles that come with working in teams.
Get to know your team and how they work
Like I said, every person is different, so how they do things may be different from how you do things. You must get to know your teammates so you can understand how each of them work. Then, work on accepting these differences so you can collaborate seamlessly.
The best things come from stepping out of your comfort zone, so just because someone does things differently than you doesn't mean they're wrong. Being open-minded could teach you a new (and maybe more productive) way of doing things. I've definitely been annoyed at first about changing something I am used to doing my way, but in the long run it helps me grow by getting me to step out of my comfort zone.
When you get to know your team, you learn people’s strengths and weaknesses. Help others when you're good at something that you know they struggle with. Reach out for help when you know what you're doing comes easily for a teammate. You can learn a lot just by asking for help, or by teaching someone else! This will make your team as well-rounded and productive as it can be.
Communication is always important, but especially so between teammates. If a coworker helps make your life a little easier, thank them for it! If someone is bothering you by not pulling their weight, communicate that to them too. People can’t read your mind, or random signals that you think might be telling them how you feel. If you are open with how you feel, your teammates will usually be understanding and hopefully work to fix issues if there are any.
Make sure everyone in the group has a chance to voice their opinions. Don’t allow differences to slide. Talk things out. I have never seen something get solved by silence.
Respect is a large part of communication and teamwork. Treat others how you would like to be treated and they will most likely do the same. If you want people to act on your feedback, make sure you're doing the same when they provide it to you. And understand that neither person will have things entirely their way. Teamwork is about meeting in the middle so everyone can be happy and collaborate more easily.
P.S. - you don't always need to be in the same place to communicate. Sometimes, coworkers will be in other offices or work from home, but as long as you make communication a priority and have the right tools (😉), you'll be just fine.
Manage your time
Your team should set realistic goals to ensure you are all on the same page. Leave time for error, as we are all human and make mistakes sometimes. The best thing to do as a teammate yourself is be reliable and consistent.
When you set specific goals for yourself and your team, everyone is aware of what expectations need to be met. This has helped me avoid conflict with teammates. We all know how frustrating it is when a deadline is approaching and some of your teammates haven't finished (or started 🙄) what they need to do. If that happens, reach out and offer assistance. Utilize your collaboration skills to help a teammate who is behind - that’s why you’re a team!
Come together with the people around you to reach goals, and focus on building your collaboration skills to be the best teammate or co-worker you can possibly be! 👍
"Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much."
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