Back in high school or college, were you the one who always did the bulk of work on a group project, then wondered why the teacher wouldn’t just let you do it by yourself in the first place? Your teachers didn’t make you participate in groups to frustrate you. They aimed to teach you a critical skill: the ability to collaborate.
Those people skills can be invaluable at the office where workplace collaboration is an increasingly pivotal part of the job for many creative professionals. Workplace collaboration is multifaceted and includes a range of abilities, such as clear communication, problem solving, empathy and accountability. Collaboration is an important soft skill for any creative professional. Projects involving design, marketing and user experience, for example, often require working together in teams and across departments. Interdepartmental initiatives can have their own challenges because teams may have different priorities, skill sets and personalities.
In a survey by The Creative Group of more than 400 advertising and marketing executives, 37 percent of respondents said conflicting goals and priorities were the biggest barriers to cross-departmental collaboration.
The following five tips can help you develop your workplace collaboration skills:
1. Work on projects outside your comfort zone
Taking on projects that fall outside your area of specialization forces you to rely on the expertise of others. For example, if you mainly focus on web design and have an opportunity to help implement a new project management system, use the opportunity to offer your creative expertise while also learning from colleagues in other departments, such as media services, IT and training.
2. Communicate clearly
It’s important to be clear and timely in your responses when you’re working with anyone, but especially when you’re collaborating with other departments. They may not know the buzzwords or acronyms you and your teammates use. When we asked creative professionals what online business communication behavior annoys them most, the top response was failure or slowness to respond, followed by poor grammar and spelling and use of acronyms and buzzwords. (Check out the infographic below for the full survey results.)
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3. Find a mentor
Some organizations offer formal mentorship programs. Even if yours doesn’t, you can ask a colleague with strong collaboration skills to mentor you. A mentorship relationship doesn’t have to require a big time commitment. It could be as simple as eating lunch together once or twice a month.
Another option is to enroll in a class at a local college or attend seminars that focus on boosting collaboration and teamwork skills. Many courses and webinars are available online as well.
4. Join industry groups
Industry associations are excellent resources for the professional development of both hard and soft skills. For instance, volunteering on a committee can be a good way to expand your network while honing your collaboration skills outside of the office.
5. Participate in team-building activities
Sure, spending 15 minutes trying to untangle a human knot might seem silly, but time spent working with a group toward the same goal helps strengthen collaboration abilities. If your organization doesn’t offer team-building activities during retreats or meetings, you might suggest the idea to your supervisor. These activities can improve office communication by boosting morale and connection between colleagues.
Wait, there’s more!
There are some other things that will help you boost your workplace collaboration skills. For example, recognize when coworkers have expertise in certain areas and ask for their input. Likewise, use your know-how to help others, even when there doesn’t seem to be a direct benefit to you.
In addition, when you work with a team, put the needs of the group ahead of your own. When you collaborate on interdepartmental projects, be especially attuned to differing perspectives and knowledge bases. For example, if you sit in the marketing department of a nonprofit, you’ll likely need to coordinate with the development department regarding grants and fundraising campaigns.
Finally, share your ideas, but also listen to the input of others. Recognize when someone else has a stronger idea than your own and support it, being sure to give credit where credit is due. Your efforts will go a long way toward building strong workplace collaboration.
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