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Written by Paul DruryPaul Drury

6 Collaboration skills that can make you a better leader

10 min read
6 Collaboration skills that can make you a better leader
Artwork by:Ruslan Vyaltsev
What does successful collaboration look like? How do you make the most of your partnership with a diverse team? We explore the collaboration skills that can elevate both your outcomes and the results of those around you.

Working with others to make things happen is the heartbeat of any business. 

Do you have the collaboration skills to harness the talents of those around you to hit a common goal? Are you able to navigate obstacles and disappointments? How do you keep colleagues motivated when things aren’t going as planned?

The ability to collaborate is one of the true workplace superpowers.

In this blog, we look at the nature of collaboration skills:

  • What does collaboration look like?
  • 6 collaboration skills with examples
  • How can you improve your collaboration?
  • How to include collaboration skills in a resume

What is collaboration?

The most challenging collaborations bring together a team of people from diverse functions and departments to work together towards an objective. They do not need to always be significant in their scope. Agreeing to achieve a goal together with one other person is also a collaboration. If you multiply that by a thousand, you get a high-performing organization.

Of course, it’s always easier to collaborate with like-minded people from your own team. When you have more in common, it’s generally easier to find a common perspective.

This blog, however, is about working with people who have “different” perspectives and backgrounds from you. Collaboration skills come into their own when interests and motivations differ.

6 collaboration skills with examples

When you seek to make something happen within a diverse team, the following six skills (and the subsets of those skills) will help you to make the most of the partnership:

Leadership

You do not have to be a manager to be a leader. Effective collaboration entails setting a direction and managing expectations for those around you, irrespective of seniority. Great collaborators encourage those around them, have the vision to lead the way, and make sure that stress levels are managed. 

Can you lead others on a journey? Skills: Intuition, encouragement, stress management, attentiveness, people management, dependability, vision.

Communication

It is impossible to collaborate with others if you are unable to get your point across clearly and succinctly. Precise and targeted communication lies at the heart of every collaboration. Get the balance right – sometimes two words are better than twenty. Listen before you speak and then articulate your views with honesty. Influencing starts with understanding.

Can you convey ideas effectively? Skills: Influencing, impartiality, transparency, humility, diplomacy, perception, persuasion, articulation, and honesty.

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Organization

If you can’t organize your own work, your collaborations with others will be a mess of confusion and uncertainty. Think through your priorities and work through how you want to approach certain issues. Involve others in resolving problems and delegate if things are getting on top of you. A collaboration is productive when everyone knows what is going on.

How do you pull everything together? Skills: Decision making, critical thinking, problem resolution, brainstorming, strategic thinking, delegating, productivity.

Emotional intelligence

Do you possess the curiosity to look deeper into a situation or do you take everything at face value? Being emotionally intelligent means navigating the undercurrents of relationships with compassion, building trust and understanding along the way. Teams thrive when every member strives to understand these hidden motivations.

Can you get inside someone’s head? Skills: Compassion, resilience, enabling trust, curiosity, patience, being present, active listening, fairness, calmness.

Foresight

Collaborations are tested when obstacles come along. The ability to foresee (and maybe avoid) potential issues before they blow up is crucial for an effective project. Do you have the focus to look beyond what is right in front of you? Can you spot the signs of a project unraveling? Foresight is about mapping out potential developments – with a view to action.

Can you gaze into the future? Skills: Strategic thinking, drive, focus, feedback, following-through, planning, logic, research.

Flexibility

Collaborative projects rarely follow the path that was set on day one. Embrace the adaptability to shift the next steps in response to an unexpected event. Tolerate ambiguity where required and be open-minded when the way ahead is not clear. You do not have to be always 100% set on your plan. Sometimes you just need to wait and see.

How adaptable are you? Skills: Balance, adaptability, influencing, fairness, tolerance, diplomacy, open-mindedness, compromising.

Conflict resolution

Conflict causes friction within a collaboration effort and people can quickly fall out of sync. While disagreements can often be constructive and a challenge is not necessarily to be avoided, when conflicts turn personal they can be toxic. Resolving conflicts in the right way and at the right time (not too early) will keep the momentum of the collaboration buzzing.

Can disagreements be constructive? Skills: Encouragement, attentiveness, persuasion, active listening, respect, calmness, and determination.

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Improving collaboration skills

Our collaboration skills hopefully improve with every project. Here are a few ways of improving how you work with others. These three facets of collaboration are particularly important to showcase during any interview process

Be smart about objectives

When you collaborate with others, set SMART objectives that everyone can get behind. SMART = Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. There is nothing worse than a collaboration where half of the team doesn’t think that you will hit your targets. 

If objectives are not SMART, relationships in any collaboration will be compromised. People need to believe both in each other and in the goal that lies ahead of them.

Own your contribution

When everyone in a collaborative effort is encouraged to take responsibility for their part of the effort, a culture of collective responsibility will emerge. Everyone can make mistakes, so people will be forgiven without excessive guilt trips. The team will feel closer to each other.

When a culture of shared ownership is fostered, people are invested in the direction of the project and everyone can celebrate individual achievements.

Embrace transparency

In any project, objectives can change and the measurement of success can shift. Being transparent with your team and colleagues about any changes in scope will help to keep them pulling together in the same direction. Everyone needs to be on the same page.

Transparency also helps if you are struggling with a certain aspect of your work. Feeling able to ask others for help at an early stage is an indication of a high-performing team.

How to include collaboration on a resume

Many of the above collaboration skills are soft skills that are hard to quantify without the context of achievement. They lack impact if they are listed in the standalone skills section (this is not the place for most soft skills).

Include your collaboration skills in the summary and employment history sections of your resume. You do not have to spell out each skill. Describe your achievements in such a way that the skill shines through. You then have the ammunition to back up your collaboration skills story when you are asked the question during an interview.

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Key takeaways

Collaboration skills are what make you a fantastic person to work with. If you value the experiences of others as much as your own experience, you will understand that the best achievements only come about with external input. 

If you work well with others, they will be keen to contribute to your success.

  • Lead with authority and communicate with clarity
  • Organize those around you but be flexible when required
  • Resolve conflicts in a timely manner (not too early or too late)
  • Set SMART objectives, promote ownership, and be transparent
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