Let’s face it, you don’t always need the input of others to get your job done. Some tasks or projects are better handled quickly by one individual with one perspective. And sometimes collaboration is just not possible, whether that’s because of a very short turnaround time, or because of the confidentiality of the project that you’re working on.
Most of the time however, collaboration is an incredible way to enhance the work you’re doing and produce a better result.
You may be thinking of the obvious (and frankly outdated) ways to collaborate with your colleagues, teammates and business partners. Cue the calendar invite, coffee and snacks, conversation around a table, on a conference call, or over a video chat. Talking about the challenges at hand, mapping out ideas, or assigning certain tasks to certain players for further exploration are all typical ways to collaborate and yes, they can produce results.
But what if workplace collaboration could look and feel different and more importantly produce a different and more powerful result? I’m here to tell you that it can!
Here’s 3 ways to up your collaboration strategy to get real results!
1 - Leave the Office
When was the last time you left the office with your co-workers to actually do work? Yes, you may have lunch out, or have went somewhere for a “team building” activity recently, or out for drinks after hours, but have you actually relocated yourself for a few hours, or (gasp) a full day, elsewhere to work together? If you haven’t done it, I suggest you do.
Many companies are still stuck in the mindset that they have all the answers they need right there in the corporate office, and this is just not true. More and more the needs of our external environment is fueling how we react to business. But if you never explore the external environment how can you stay connected to it?
Leaving your corporate campus or business confines only when the work is done will allow you to see things only through that “time off” lense, missing out on a totally new perspective.
Try picking a day per week (or per month if weekly seems too much) and going to a local coffee shop to work, using a WeWork space, a park or a library. You may be surprised what the team comes up with when picking a new office location periodically or having meetings somewhere other than your stale conference room!
This is not only an effective way to collaborate and generate creative ideas, but it’s fun for people and supports the kind of culture you want at your business or organization. Try it!
2 - Only Ask Questions
Questions are an amazing tool for bringing about ah-ha moments. As a coach I ask a lot of questions. Anyone can learn simple ways to lead a collaboration session in a more “coach like” fashion. The secret is asking interesting and thought provoking questions.
Try starting a meeting by telling the group that the only thing they are going to do is this session is ask each other thought provoking questions. No need to answer the questions - just ask one and leave time to take notes, then ask another. One person’s question will evoke another person’s question and so on. Asking questions without having to provide answers allows people to think and thinking is key to getting to your desired result.
Make this a relatively short meeting, about 30 minutes and try to allow as many questions as possible to be asked. Encourage people to take tons of notes and schedule a follow up meeting a week later to discuss the answers, and ideas that came out of the session.
Tony Robbins says, “Quality questions create a quality life.”
3 - Capitalize on Cognitive Diversity
We know that diversity in the workplace is an important way to achieve results.
Check this out - a McKinsey report showed that out of 366 public companies, those in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry average, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns above the industry average.
Diverse leaders create better results. This is true, but cognitive diversity can be equally powerful and should also be considered.
Cognitive diversity is defined as differences in perspective or processing style. That usually comes from a different set of experiences, education, up bringing, belief system, etc. So in theory two people could look exactly the same, be the same gender, race, and age, but have a entirely different contribution to the organization.
This is because of how we think!
But how do you know who thinks differently and who doesn’t? Good question! One way is to ask for and listen for different perspectives, and celebrate those different perspectives. Another way is getting to know the people that you work with on a more personal level. And one of the best ways is to gather a group of people to collaborate with, that are not normally asked to have a seat at the table. For those of you working in a corporate job that may be people from different departments, different career stages, different experiences, customers, people from other industries, etc. And for those of you in business this certainly can business partners, clients, competitors and allies alike.
It’s not rocket science. It’s as simple as ensuring you are collaborating with a diverse group of people - and knowing that all types of diversity matter. And that diversity is more than just how we look, how old we are, or what sex we were born.
If you’re reading this, you care about your career and you want to have a rich and fulfilling work experience. I appreciate you and I’m here to help you reach those goals!
Anyone has the power to make change in their life and in their career. It doesn’t matter what position you hold, how terrible your boss is, if you’re the CEO, or if you’re currently unemployed or running a struggling business. You’re in complete control of how you respond to your circumstances. You can choose the level you wish to contribute and the type of change you wish to make.
Now, I would love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below and let me know some of the unique ways you’ve learned to collaborate with your colleagues or business partners. And what do you think about my suggestions? Are you going to try them at your work this week? :)
Thanks for reading!