At our very basis, we humans are group animals. What I mean is that we are dependent on other people in order to get things done, some more than others. Our prehistoric ancestors already understood this when hunting and gathering. On your own you were in danger and it was almost impossible to survive; you progressed together. But the fact that we have a natural tendency to work together does not mean that it is easy at the same time.
In fact, it is actually unavoidable that something during the process will go wrong. But at that occurrence you realize the inevitability that you do have to work together. In that case you better do it right. How do you prevent disagreements with colleagues and ensure that the collaboration with colleagues runs as smoothly as possible? Here are 5 tips to work better as a team.
But what if you are not good at team work or are at your best working alone? Then you better check out my suggestion at the end of this article!
Not everyone is the same
One of the pitfalls that stand in the way of a successful cooperation is that as an individual you can easily piggyback on the hard work of others. You could benefit the most from a collaboration if you do your best, but just a bit less than the rest. The problem, of course, is that little happens if everyone acts according to that same mentality.
Only when you spend longer with each other can you properly estimate who is really going for it, who is not and in the worst case decide to expel misfits from the group. But prevention is better than cure. The role of your boss plays a very big part in this, as persons out of order can/should be detected and corrected at an early stage.
With these 5 tips you can increase the chance of a successful collaboration.
1. State your expectations
I cannot emphasize this enough, but good communication is essential in almost all circumstances. When you enter into the collaboration, discuss what you expect from each other, what your common goals are and what the importance of the collaboration is. What are you doing, why are you doing it, and why are you doing it together? Also make clear what your role is, what you can contribute and what you hope to get out of it yourself. This is of course applicable to the team as a whole.
2. Find the balance between formal and informal
People think that trust is enough to enter into good cooperation, but in practice that often turns out to be a misconception. Friends who work together usually have a good informal basis to work on, but sometimes they cannot be trusted in unforeseen situations. That is why it is important to also make formal agreements.
At the same time, you should be somewhat flexible and not want to seal everything in advance, because you cannot prevent unforeseen circumstances. Make sure that the rules are clear, that everyone adheres to them, and that a cooperative relationship develops based on mutual trust and informal rules of interaction.
Now that we work from home in bigger numbers, the latter has become a lot more difficult. The corona crisis has disrupted all kinds of social processes that are necessary for a collaboration to run smoothly. Via Zoom and Teams we can get the formal side done, but the challenge is how to ensure that the informal conversations take place. Because that real, light contact is just as important.
3. Find people who are similar to you, but not the same
Collaboration seems easiest if people are very similar in character. Furthermore, if you know the other person well, you can better guess how hard someone is trying his or her best. The problem will be that most of the time you don’t benefit much from each other, because you don’t complement each other.
It is for this reason that in order to achieve success you will need to find someone who is less like you and who has knowledge and skills that you do not have. You need to find a balance between compatibility and too many differences.
I know that it could mean that co-operation will be more difficult, because the other person could speak a completely different language in certain respects. Moreover, you immediately have a trust problem, because you are less able to assess the other. But the difference should not be too great either. Then it is almost impossible to establish a collaboration. In the middle lies the optimal situation where you know enough of each other and can build up enough trust.
4. Investigate the hindrances
Is the collaboration not going as you would like? Then you may start wondering where exactly it went wrong. Have you yourself shown enough that you are committed? Also check whether there are any obstacles for the other person in the agreements you have made. As communication is so very important, go talk about the issues at hand. You might find misunderstandings
When there appears to be a trust problem, it will be a whole different ball game and it gets more difficult. Anyway, you did find out what the real problem is. What you then need is a third party – often a manager or HR in work situations – who can look at it independently. In case like this HR could play a very significant role as mediator.
5. Realize that something always goes wrong
You have to be very realistic here. As we are humans and all differ from each other, no collaboration will run without hick-ups. Therefore, you can never completely prevent problems. Consequently it makes sense to be aware of this and discuss in advance how to deal with a crisis. For example, agree to give each other the space to find a solution for themselves and not to be in each other’s way too much.
Personally I think that being in the know of possible mishaps happening, will greatly attribute to a better co-operation. If anything, it will take away a lot of tension. You would not exactly welcome trouble, but you will more easily accept that it can happen as a fact of life and better deal with it.
I hope you like these tips and trust that you will make good use of them. Most of us like to interconnect and work with other people in order to accomplish difficult tasks. Some work even better than individually and need the guidance of the group. Anyway it is the eventual result that counts.
And then there are a group of individuals, however, who are just that: individuals, who work best for themselves, just need goals to work to, but will achieve what they want all by themselves. If you are one of them, then my following suggestion is for you: you will become your own boss and I am going to help you achieve that now.
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