In school, counselors in training are taught to guard the confidentiality of their clients. Because of this, I had always pictured working as a therapist as somewhat isolated. Imagine my surprise when, shortly after graduating, I found myself swept-up in collaboration. Each week I have the privilege of connecting with teachers, medical doctors, social workers, other therapists, and members of the treatment team.
Our world is rapidly changing and collaboration has become the norm. Instructors are in the same boat. Currently, I am teaching a course with three other professionals. There is the teacher who designed the course, an instructor responsible for giving the lectures, and myself–the professor overseeing the on-line activity.
Writing is equally as collaborative. This week, my friend Erik has been coaching me on how to automate my blog posts through e-mail. I’m also teaming up with an online acquaintance to begin a mastermind group, and a third friend and I are brainstorming creative strategies for increasing the reach of our message. Truly, collaboration is everywhere.
As you can imagine, I have been learning a lot about the importance of partnering with others. Here are five strategies that have helped me grow in the collaborative process.
1. View collaboration as normal, and do it.
Five years ago, I had to force myself to team up. I’m an introvert by nature and I don’t like pestering people. I remember the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I sat by the phone, knowing that I needed to call and connect. Fortunately, all of this has changed. Today, I will contact ten or more individuals in an hour and not think anything of it.
We are living in a world where collaboration is expected. If the thought of teaming up with other professionals makes you nervous, remind yourself that you have something valuable to add–after all, that is why you were invited into the conversation in the first place.
No one of us is as wise as all of us. This is what makes collaboration so powerful. Although you don’t know everything about the topic at hand, it is likely that you know some things. In addition, you also bring your unique perspective and life experience. The best way to overcome collaboration anxiety is to remind yourself that you have value to add, and then dive right in. Teaming with others gets easier with practice
2. Be friendly, brief, and direct.
People are busier than ever. If you can be personable while getting the job done, your presence will be highly regarded. Being clear and direct in making your needs known is also an important skill to learn. Others will not know how they can help unless you ask. The clearer you are, the easier you make it for people to respond. And why not ask? If you don’t ask, other’s won’t have the opportunity to say “yes!”
3. Stay high-touch.
Social media is making staying connected easier than ever before.
- Personal Facebook messages
- Direct tweets
- Old-fashioned, handwritten notes
These are all simple ways of staying connected between collaborative sessions. Relationships are the key to good teamwork. Staying connected is imperative because it lets people know that you value them for who they are and not only for what they can do.
4. Seek to serve.
Collaboration is all about forming mutually beneficial relationships. When each team member seeks to give, an incredible synergy takes place. You can help generate a culture of service though example. Let the process begin with you!
5. Keep collaborating.
When it comes to collaboration, persistence is key. As much as I would like to think that I always respond, I know there are times when I let communication go unanswered. It’s not that I don’t want to connect. It is far more likely that between taking the kids to school, writing my next blog post, changing the diaper of my ten-month-old, and heading from one job to the next, I entirely forgot about a message that I had fully intended to answer.
Other people have lives that are equally as busy. Some are even busier! I am grateful when people reach out a second and even a third time. I like to give others the same benefit of the doubt. When engagement doesn’t happen immediately, I choose not to take it personally, and try again. I have discovered that persistence pays off.
Glenn Brooke says
Jed, it’s a good insight that collaboration gets easier with practice. I also think you’re correct that we need to give people the benefit of doubt when they don’t respond. Assume they have good intentions. Ignore those pesky voices that suggest they aren’t responding because they dislike you or don’t want to work with you.
Erik Tyler says
Yes, Glenn, giving people the benefit of the doubt was also a stand-out in this one. If the relationship can support it, I have one friend who sends this and only this) on the third attempt to connect digitally:
Jed Jurchenko says
Love it! I may have to borrow his idea. It’s a fun & creative reminder. Unfortunately, I’d have probably been on the receiving end of his reminder a few of times. The good news is I am getting better at responding. #GettingThisSocialMediaThingFiguredOutOneStepAtATime 🙂
Adam Smith says
Great post, Jed. Collaboration is so important my friend. I love how you pointed out that collaboration is normal. I think the perspective on it is why people don’t do it.
Jed Jurchenko says
Thanks Adam! I love all the collaboration that happens on this site & with the team. I’ve been learing a ton from you & everyone here.
Erik Tyler says
Lots of good stuff here, Jed, among them this: ” Others will not know how they can help unless you ask.” I do think we get into places in all relationships (e.g., collaborations, friendships, spouses, etc.) where this is hard to keep in mind. We want people to just see the need and come running. Sometimes they do. But most of the time, like it or not, we are better at seeming “OK” on the outside than we think given our feelings INSIDE.
This is something I continue to have to work on. Fact is, I CAN do a lot myself. But I don’t believe collaboration is solely about getting other people to do what you can’t do for yourself. It’s about having someone along the way who understands, who can offer new perspective, who can get excited when things go well, and someone who can caution when things might not. I always get excited about good collaboration (which is the primary reason I engage in social media in the first place, not gaining numbers).
And thanks for the shout-out. Goes to show that sometimes collaboration is happening even when it’s just disguised as friends helping friends do what we do better (or maybe that’s just what collaboration really is at its best).