All teams need certain skills to succeed. Collaborative teams, however, have a few more requirements. Teamwork occurs when a group of people combines their individual efforts to work towards a common goal. Everyone has their own task that contributes to the final result, and they can work somewhat independently on that task. Collaboration goes a few steps further.
Collaboration happens when the team acts as a unit; they aren’t just working together, they’re thinking, strategizing, and problem-solving together. Remember those group projects in school? If three students were in a group where one came up with the topic, one wrote the paper, and one designed the presentation, they would certainly be working as a team (the common goal is an A), but they wouldn’t necessarily be collaborating.
On the other hand, creative teams are often collaborative; they’re setting goals, brainstorming, and bringing their ideas to life as a group. Accordingly, when building creative teams, hard skills are important, but collaborative skills are a must. Whether you’re searching for a job, hoping to join a team within your workforce, or building one yourself, you’ll want to be sure and check every box in the collaboration skills checklist.
The Skills To Include In Your Collaboration Skills Checklist
The benefits of strong communication skills transfer to all aspects of work, but they’re especially important for team projects. Collaboration can’t happen without communication — it’s foundational. To start, misaligned goals can completely derail a project; it’s difficult to find a good solution if people are on completely different pages with what that solution should be accomplishing. Strong communication skills also go a long way when it comes to conflict resolution, or preventing conflict from arising in the first place for that matter.
Not only that, but good communication leads to a huge reduction in costly mistakes. According to Expert Market, “86% of corporate executives, educators, and employees cite ineffective communication and poor collaboration as reasons for failures in the workplace,” and “miscommunication costs companies with 100 employees an average of $420,000 per year.” Needless to say, miscommunications have an impact.
How To Build Communication Skills
Listen: The first step towards checking communication off the collaboration skills checklist is listening. When we only pay attention to the gist of what someone is saying, we might miss information that could potentially change the meaning of what is being said. What’s more, active listening gives colleagues the opportunity to speak; shyer people or those not used to speaking in group settings may hesitate to interrupt, so leaving space for them to speak up can be of huge benefit.
Observe: When communication is happening face-to-face, we also need to pay attention to body language, as the way someone moves or positions themselves can reveal a great deal about the meaning behind the words — it provides subtext. For instance, how open or closed someone’s posture is can indicate whether they are feeling receptive to new ideas or stressed and defensive. (Take body language with a grain of salt, though; sometimes people just like to cross their arms.)
Practice: The next piece in building communication skills is to practice, and a great way to do so is to give and receive feedback. Letting team members know when they’ve done something well not only helps build a relationship with them, but also shows that you are paying attention to their efforts. On a similar note, it’s also important to learn to give negative feedback constructively. “That’s a terrible idea” isn’t very useful, and it certainly doesn’t foster a safe environment for people to speak openly.
The next essential skill on the collaboration skills checklist is open-mindedness, the ability to consider new or different ideas, opinions, and viewpoints. Creative teams are often tasked with innovating, and allowing for different perspectives is an essential part of innovation; nothing novel and exciting ever came from refusing to acknowledge new ideas. In addition, open-mindedness allows for speedier, more productive conflict resolution. The ability to see things from others’ perspectives can be a game-changer.
How To Be More Open-Minded
Pause: One way to become more open-minded is to pause before responding to teammates. It’s easy to jump to conclusions in a hurried response, and it’s even easier to employ black and white thinking, believing that the other person is either entirely correct or wildly mistaken. Taking a moment before responding to a questionable idea (or one we perceive as questionable) lets us better find the middle ground. It can also help to ask clarifying questions. Often, all it takes to broaden our perspective is to figure out where the other person is coming from.
Practice: Like most of the skills on the collaboration skills checklist, open-mindedness takes practice. Luckily, it’s a skill we can practice all the time. A great place to start is by exchanging ideas with others without trying to change their mind. While you may or may not be swayed by them in the end, just considering their opinion is a huge step in the right direction.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to perceive, understand, and manage emotions. It’s an incredibly important skill for collaboration; emotional intelligence improves our ability to communicate, increases empathy, and allows us to respond to difficult situations (and difficult people) more effectively. Plus, those with a high level of emotional intelligence tend to have more internal motivation, which can carry over to team settings.
How To Increase Emotional Intelligence
Self-reflect: Emotional intelligence is one of the more challenging skills to improve from the collaboration skills checklist. The first step is to recognize your own emotions and pinpoint which situations cause them to arise, which requires some introspection. The next step could be to practice recognizing the emotions of others, which you can do by taking note of nonverbal signals such as facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. With this information, navigating conflict or tension is far easier; when you can identify what people are feeling, you can better assess what they need.
Read: Another way to improve EQ is to read nonfiction books with complex characters. Books improve our ability to understand others’ thoughts, feelings, and motivations, as we can see them spelled out in the text. That’s a big reason why reading is so important for kids; research has shown that reading nonfiction can improve both empathy and social skills (among many other things).
Problem Solving Prowess
The ability to come up with creative solutions to complex problems is crucial in a collaborative setting. Creative projects almost always come with a few curveballs; solutions fail, clients change their minds, and it takes some problem-solving skill to change course and find a resolution. What’s more, problem-solving is one of the top skills employers, managers, and team leaders look for in candidates. Problem-solving combines an array of other capabilities, such as logic, creativity, critical thinking, and lateral thinking, so showing you can problem solve indicates that you have many more competencies as well.
How To Enhance Problem Solving Abilities
Brainstorm: It’s easy to play the blame game when issues pop up, but that rarely leads to a resolution. Problem-solving is far more productive when we focus on actually solving the issue instead. However, in order to fix an issue, you first need to know what it is. As Albert Einstein supposedly said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Once you’ve clearly defined the problem, brainstorming with colleagues is a great path towards resolving it; ideas build off of one another, and if you hit a roadblock, your teammates may be able to find a way around it.
Iterate: Another way to build problem-solving skills is to test out different approaches and find the ones that work for you. Some people find it helpful to keep a journal where they can write out ideas, others prefer mind maps, and many like to talk it over with colleagues. And, like with the rest of the collaboration skills checklist, it never hurts to practice. Puzzles, brainteasers, and viewing little issues through a solution-oriented lens can sharpen the mind and build on the skills you have.
Collaborate Better With Ashore
Even with the right skills, team collaboration takes a lot of work, but Ashore is here to help! To prevent miscommunications, Ashore offers contextual commenting on all types of proofs from PDFs to videos — reviewers can point to something directly and talk about it, adding clarity to the feedback. And with a dynamic tagging system, a comprehensive timeline, easy review links, and color-coding to delineate the status of each proof at a glance, you’ll have everything you need to keep your team organized. Plus, you can create and save as many workflows as you need, so once you’ve found a process that works, you can replicate it.
Ready to level up your team collaboration? Start your 14-day free trial of Ashore today!