Working with Others: How Collaboration Shapes Organisations
Have you have attended an interview in the last 10 years or so? If your answer is yes, you were probably asked a question about your ability to work with others in a team. Other questions may have revolved around your working style preferences.
I have written several blogs on the critical subject of collaboration and why it is an important facet in today’s challenging environment. Our strategic partner, Advance Consultancy Ltd, designed the first assessment to identify an individual’s suitability to collaborate (StC). It highlighted seven facets:
- Open to ideas
- Working with others
- Change oriented
Working with Others as a Requirement to Collaborate
In this blog, I would like to focus on working with others as a necessary requirement in order to collaborate.
There is more to climbing the corporate ladder than just your qualifications. In my experience, more employers today pay less attention to what you know. Instead, they want to know how you will fit within a team or company culture. The ability to work with others is a characteristic that every business wants from its employees.
What does it Mean to Work with Others?
Few people, if any, work truly on their own. So no matter what job you do, your career will benefit from an ability to work with others. But, what does it mean to work with others?
Well, working with others is the ability to effectively interact, cooperate, collaborate, and manage conflicts with other people in order to complete tasks and achieve shared goals. It involves understanding and working within a team or organisation’s culture, rules, and values. Working with others requires many skills including communication (obviously), and managing conflict when it arises. This work often involves building consensus, solving problems, decision-making, negotiating, and respecting the opinions of others.
The Link Between Teamwork and Relationships
I believe that the last point is critical. In order to truly collaborate, you will need to work effectively with folks who see things differently from you – sometimes very differently – if the team’s objectives are to be achieved. Great teamwork requires great relationships, which in turn require:
- Trust – which allows people to be open and honest with each other. Establishing trust means don’t have to spend time wondering if folks are knifing you in the back. Trust at the highest level requires vulnerability, which is the base of Patrick Lencioni’s 5 Behaviours of a Cohesive Team. It means being prepared to admit making a mistake, being uncertain, and saying sorry for treating a colleague badly.
- Mutual respect – where people can have different opinions without being criticised or ridiculed for doing so.
- Awareness of self and others – this means having emotional intelligence, taking responsibility for your words and actions, and having empathy with those around you.
- Diversity – not just accepting diverse views and opinions, but actually welcoming them for what they add to the team.
- Open and honest communication – which is, of course, a pre-requisite for any good relationship regardless of the selected communication medium and which allows high-quality sharing of information.
- Listening – making an effort to truly understand another’s view of the world.
- Managing conflict – which means focusing on the issue, not the personalities involved in a difference of opinion.
Assessing your own Ability to Work with Others
Using Advance Consultancy’s assessment, you would be high on the Working with Others facet if you like being part of a group and prefer working collaboratively to solve problems. You will encourage the team to work by your own actions, consulting widely, building consensus, and respecting group decisions. While you enjoy working in a team, you are not necessarily focused on being the leader. You may, however, be reluctant to make decisions by yourself when appropriate and can rely too much on the team for approval. If this is true of you, your suggested development task is to opt to work on your own in situations where this is likely to be more effective and timely.
You would have a medium Working with Others score if you can work effectively either on your own or as part of a group. Individuals scoring medium probably enjoy working as part of a group and appreciate the input of others. However, at other times you may feel the need to think things through on your own. When working in a group, you can sometimes become impatient and try to impose your opinions to move things forward. If you think this you, your suggested development task is to balance your own views and those of the group in order to facilitate consensus decisions on important issues. This may mean delaying some decisions.
Your Working with Others score would be considered low if you prefer working on your own to working with others and often feel more is achieved that way. You usually take the space to analyse situations by yourself and reach your own conclusions. While you can work with others, you tend to believe there is no need to. However, you will often choose to work on your own to the detriment of involving others.
If you feel this is you, your suggested development task is to take the time to consult others in order to build consensus on important issues.
If you are like the vast majority of people I come into contact with, you are almost certain to be working as part of a team. If you struggle to get on and work with colleagues your career might well suffer as a consequence.