Collaboration Skills

Collaboration_wordsCollaboration is often misunderstood. Many think it is the best method of achieving goals for all situations. While collaboration is often desired for its merits in teamwork, creativity and productivity, it is not always the best form to produce desired results. Whenever a process or project is repeated frequently, complicated, rapid, electronic collaboration is not the tool of choice. The prior post presented the benefits and limitations of collaboration as well as three conditions for collaboration to be a useful method.

Below are three basic conditions for groups to collaborate for practical, productive results: work together effectively, project, and trust.


Prepare teams well for success for collaboration. A change coach helps members build skills to structure themselves and their work for success in these areas. The key word here is structure. Too often it is considered anathema to collaboration. Nothing could be less true. Structure and infrastructure are still important for collaborative success. Basic steps to progress effectively as a collaborative group are listed below.

  • Build accountability for specific tasks. Accountability for tasks needs to be identified specifically in terms of person and due date at a minimum.
  • Designate tasks for those with the relevant skills;
  • Nurture the culture with structure and processes to enhance productivity, structure-light;
  • Ensure members have skills in team communication and management.

Collaborative projects require the team members to work together to complete tasks which reach their intended result. Effective work with others usually requires mature members and / or relevant training to build necessary skills. Members need the expertise of the project, the ability to communicate with others effectively, to overcome conflict, manage processes, delegate appropriately and build accountability. When teams function well with these skills they are productive. In fact, teams appreciate their work and each other more when their skills are honed.

When these skills are not institutionalized, several unintended consequences are possible. Among them are loss of team cohesion, reduced outcomes, and alienation of experts who came before them. Member’s work competitively. Prior attempts at the same tasks are ignored and the lessons learned are lost. Additionally, leaders from past efforts loose interest in helping the team that does not respect their attempts with the endeavor. Results can take longer, cost more, and reduce quality.


As stated in the prior post a collaborative project has at least two people working together. Collaboration always occurs within the context of a project. A project has definite beginning, middle and end. Additionally, all involved are working towards common goal/s. Members of the project share information, tasks, and informal processes.

  1. TRUST

“For productive collaboration – things like trust and respect – don’t take root overnight.” (Silverstone, Y., & Cross, R., 2011) Those involved in the project share information, tasks, and informal processes. This requires a reasonable amount of trust and willingness to share of the social currency of the project. Typically, this is information, sometimes it is status or contacts.

The preconditions for trust often are mutually exclusive to corporate objectives. Corporations are often set up for individual rewards, thus encouraging competition. Trust is a by-product of team preparation. Without the sufficient social cohesion and sharing in the group, trust is difficult to enhance. Each group develops in their own organic manner. Cookie-cutter approaches fall short of the intention to bring differing individuals together. Teams who do not know each other, or who do not have complete clarity on the collaborative project need coaches and consultants. These professionals can ground the team set the stage for accomplishment.

These qualities build the minimum requirements for individuals to collaborate for creative, amazing results. Systems can be open, decision making can be consensus, structure can be light in nontraditional, collaborative groups. Yet, these three guidelines need to be in place to collaborate. Ideally all teams would possess these qualities. Take heed when someone bandies the idea of collaboration for a project when they are unsure of its preconditions and when they think that it easily improves productivity. Some of the requirements of hierarchical projects exist in productive, collaborative teams. These requirements do not mean that the project is traditional, top heavy, power tripped, destructive, anti-democratic or irrelevant. Everyone’s voice is still heard and valued. This is my voice


Silverstone, Y., & Cross, R. (2011). Fostering high-value collaboration. Malaysian Business, 70-n/a. Retrieved from

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