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Personal Skills for Successful Collaboration

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Digital Marketing - Study Notes:

To operate successfully in a collaborative environment, whether that’s within a team you are physically a part of, or one you have a remote relationship with, linked only by video or telephone, you must consider how you ‘project’ yourself on to others and how they perceive you and your abilities.

Also, you must consider your own capabilities when interacting with team members, as you lead, instruct, follow directions, respond to requests, and deal with conflict. In other words, you must be self-aware, and recognize your own strengths and weaknesses.

Become self-aware

You can gain useful insights into your own abilities and skills - and how others perceive you - by thinking about your interactions with others and then asking yourself the following questions:

  • How do others view you and what are you like to work with?
  • Can you accurately identify and assertively address the ‘elephant in the room’ when a situation requires such an intervention?
  • Do you tune out when someone is speaking because you think you already have all of the answers?
  • Are you able to hold an impartial viewpoint?
  • Are you able to honestly comprehend what it is you can and cannot do, and what you should avoid or perhaps delegate?
  • Can you suspend judgment on an issue that you do not yet possess a full understanding of?
  • What mechanism do you use to gather all the facts?
  • Do you give everyone the benefit of the doubt?
  • Are you a critical thinker? Can you pause, ascertain all of the facts, and only then use your judgment, knowledge, and experience to formulate a reasoned response?
  • Can you work within a team or do you prefer to work alone? Do you prefer to work alone and feed into a team remotely?
  • Do you truly understand that collaboration means that project and task success comes from a team environment?

By answering these questions honestly, you should increase your self-awareness, and get a better sense of the personal skills you excel at – as well as the ones that need more work. You can then focus attention on improving your weaker personal skills and any shortcomings you have identified.

Lead beyond your authority

When collaborating, a very useful personal skill is the ability to ‘lead beyond your authority’. This skill is extremely helpful in a collaborative project, as it allows you to lead outside your direct circle of control, overcome the silo mentality that often exists between departments and teams, and move within and across different spheres to make change happen.

In a poorly managed situation, this kind of approach may be challenged and defeated.  However, in an open and cohesive collaboration, all stakeholders should be encouraged to lead beyond their authority to ensure the success of the project or task.

Practice active listening

Another useful personal skill is the ability to practice active listening. Too often, people are waiting for their turn to talk or thinking about what to say next, instead of truly listening to the other person and viewing them with interest and curiosity.

Active listening is a four-step process:

  1. Truly listen to the person - and be seen to physically listen. For example, make eye contact, nod your head, and give an occasional non-verbal ‘uh-huh’.
  2. Feed-back your understanding of the person’s words to them, after they have finished speaking.
  3. Confirm that you heard the person correctly.
  4. Ask a relevant follow-up question to further clarify your understanding of the situation.

Active listening in action

Here is an example of how an entire team lost their ability to actively listen and question. I was once facilitating a workshop with a senior management team who were frequently using the term ‘EVC’ in their conversations. This term seemed to have many meanings and was used in multiple contexts.

When I questioned the meaning of the term, I was informed EVC stood for ‘Emerging Value Creation’.  When I asked for further clarification as to what that meant in the context of our current conversation, it turned out that it was a term that a senior member of the team had read once in Newsweek magazine.

It turned out that EVC had become a frequently used term among the team - and among the team they collaborated with. Unfortunately, it was completely unrelated in any conceivable way to the work the team was actually doing, and was totally misleading. But group-think and a lack of active listening had allowed this term to establish itself. An effective member of a collaborating team will ensure this doesn’t happen by listening intently and by challenging held beliefs.

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Kevin J Reid

CEO of Personal Skills Training, Senior Coach at Kevin J Reid Coaching, Co-founder and Communications Director of The Counsel.ie, and Lead Collaborator of LeitrimMade.com

  • A consummate and skillful international communications trainer, facilitator, and coach
  • Has over 15 years of learning development experience with individuals, teams, and entire organizations
  • Has facilitated communications workshops and training across numerous sectors in Ireland, the UK, Europe, America, and Africa

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    Working With Others
    Kevin J Reid
    Skills Expert

    Organizations are more likely to perform well when their employees work together effectively. To be successful in today’s workplace, it’s important to develop good interpersonal relationships with your colleagues, and to be able to collaborate with them successfully when the need arises. It’s also important to be able to communicate well with your colleagues, so you can get your message across and ensure it is understood.

    In this module, you will learn about the personal skills you should cultivate in order to collaborate successfully, such as the ability to listen actively and to ‘lead beyond your authority’. You will also discover strategies you can use to improve team collaboration, such as holding regular meetings and sending fewer emails.

    You will learn why good communication matters – and how you are communicating even when you are silent, before you utter a single word. You will also be introduced to strategies you can use to communicate effectively and improve your day-to-day interactions with others, including observing body language, asking short but impactful questions, and using pauses for effect.