There’s a famous proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. These words ring especially true at work. Collaboration is essential to success. It’s a core value here at Lucas group, and something many people across industries would tell you is important. But now that many offices and work habits have gone remote, we’re having to recalibrate our expectations and even our tools for what collaboration looks like.
What is collaboration? And as importantly, what is it not?
In the simplest terms, collaboration is the act of working with one or many other people to solve a problem. And at work, collaboration is hearing one another’s perspectives and working together to come up with the best solution. Good collaboration is a sign of solid trust and transparent communication. At Lucas Group, I work across verticals. I am constantly collaborating with clients and candidates, internal team members, and our networks to help meet needs.
One thing I’ve learned over time is that collaboration is not consensus. Everyone is not going to agree on everything all the time. But effective collaboration means socializing context around a decision or an initiative—whatever it may be—and listening to perspectives across stakeholders. Even if you don’t have universal agreement, by communicating early and often, listening with intention and contextualizing decisions through the lens of those who might disagree you are going to have more success in your work.
How to stay collaborative in a remote work environment?
Even with all the changes to workplace norms have seen in the last year, the significance of collaboration has always been true. Collaboration is a big blocker in work if you don’t have it and an accelerant to success if you do. So how do you collaborate if your team is remote?
White board brainstorms, breakroom catchups and hallway conversations may be fewer and farther between, but it’s important to find creative new ways to solve problems or create and customize solutions—both for clients and candidates. There’s no shortage of technology available to solve your collaboration needs. From Slack to Zoom to Miro, the resources to reinvent your team conversations and brainstorms abound.
What’s more important is keeping collaboration top of mind. With some of the in-office cues we used to lean on to bring collaboration to life absent, you might feel rusty or even out of practice. It can be easy to slip into a work-from-home routine that makes you forget about colleagues or teams you haven’t seen in person in a while. Maybe their not a part of your day-to-day routines, but there’s a good chance their perspectives are still meaningful to your work. And that’s why it’s important to always keep collaboration present. When you create your project plans now, how are you making sure collaboration is part of the work? Who are you meeting with that you don’t always see? How are you keeping their perspectives and needs fresh in your mind?
How do you know if you’re not being collaborative enough?
If you’ve felt your collaboration skills atrophy over the last year, you may have also noticed that your projects have lost traction or even flopped. Lack of collaboration often sneaks up on you, but once you realized you’ve gotten too far in a work sprint or initiative without it, it’s often too late. So how do you know if you’re doing enough?
Here are some questions to consider:
Too much agreement. Having all “yeses” on a decision or tactic could be a great sign you don’t have the right collaborators at the table. Sometimes a lack of diversity of thought or backgrounds in a discussion might mean you’re lacking the perspective you need. You might be talking to people that only work in your industry or speaking to your peers and friends. The consequence of too much homogenous thinking could result in blind spots that slow or squelch your work in time.
Meetings are too quiet. Worse than a bunch of yeses is complete silence in discussion. Ask yourself if you’ve set up an environment or experience that feels collaborative. Does everyone in the room feel comfortable speaking up or even challenging an idea?
Weak communication. Are people asking the same question repeatedly about an initiative or project? Maybe you need to look at your communications and the context you’re sharing (or not sharing) across audiences.
People aren’t incentivized to collaborate. At Lucas Group, seeing a teammate succeed makes us feel just as good as if we had done it ourselves. We help others with their endeavors, applaud their efforts, and win together as a team. We humbly ask our teammates for feedback and are open to them approaching us with ideas or concerns. We share what we’ve learned and provide mentorship to those who want to grow. If you’re work culture places too much value on individual success over team wins, collaboration will suffer.
Something just feels off—maybe it’s too easy or maybe it’s too hard, maybe it’s not moving at the speed you want. Have you tested your program, your initiative or your change with the people that will use it in some way? Rather than telling people what to do, ask for their input.
Collaborating isn’t a formula you can jot down and replicate. It takes a lot of practice to understand collaboration. It isn’t something you can read a book on. It takes requires being flexible to meet the culture and situation you’re in. But the rewards of collaboration make for a rewarding team culture and work experience. That’s why it’s at the heart of Lucas Group’s values.