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.