During a recent consultation with a young mother, I was asked how I would have responded to her eight year old child’s statement “mommy, Tami’s a better artist than me.”
I told the inquisitive mother that with every question a child asks there is an opportunity to educate and prepare them for their future. Your answers shape a child’s perspective in significant ways and is likely to have a lasting impact on how the child navigates the complex social, academic and work arena. My initial consultation with clients involves identification of the clients innate abilities and suggestions for strategies to hone their strengths. The most successful people (and I believe the happiest people) are those who are aware of their strengths, work consistently on sharpening their skills and are effective in finding ways to collaborate with others. People who are most successful at working in a group make a habit of combining their strengths with others who possess complimentary ones to achieve a common goal. Collaboration leads to a superior outcome; There is no benefit to envying another person’s capacities, bullying someone who has strengths you don’t have or denying your own strengths. On the contrary, knowing what you can contribute and being able to work with others who possess skill sets beyond yours can extend the value of your “brand.”
The Benefits of Collaborating vs. Working Independently
It’s important to recognize your strengths and how you can collaborate with others who have different skills and abilities to achieve a common goal. For example: As a child, kids can relate to having different strengths in a team sport. In kickball you need players who possess a variety of strengths; Some are better at pitching the ball and others are better at catching. The team benefits from having players who are strong in different areas so each aspect of the game requires people who have different skill-sets. If a team is filled with only great pitchers or exclusively great catchers the opposing team will have an advantage and easily find their weakness in order to win the game.
Similarly, society and corporations need individuals with a variety of talents and abilities; its our job to discover our core strengths and to seek out ways to contribute to our company. Instead of being competitive for the sake of squelching another person’s success, successful people are self-aware and self-confident so they can express appreciation for other’s talents for the sake of collaboration.
According to expert Ram Charan: The Great Economic Power Shift – Forbes, Collaboration in the workplace is central. Millennials are coming in with a different outlook, and without collaboration one cannot succeed. Just as the sophisticated mother would encourage her child to take pleasure in knowing what he is strong in and to be equally gracious about recognizing another persons’ strengths, so should adults apply this principle in the work-force. If your talent is in computer programming and you have one friend who is a great people person with strong financial skills and another who is a talented graphic designer, you could engage them in a business venture where each of you contributes your abilities to launch a business; the graphic designer could make the packaging, the financial person could attract investors and you could focus on developing the software. Each of you working independently could not be nearly as successful as when you combine your skills to build a successful small business. The world needs people who practice at what they’re good at and that her child should also take time to practice hard at something he loves. If everyone were doing that and then finding ways their skills could compliment one another, the end result would be gorgeous! You could have better toys, better snack foods delivered in a more convenient, aesthetic way.
Why Successful People Collaborate (and why you should too)
1. Collaborating allows you to focus on your core strength and optimize your service
I often receive calls from resume writers who prefer to outsource the coaching and interview training to me so they can focus on what they do best, crafting resumes. Although many resume writers can offer coaching, they might feel more suitable and equipped to limit their work to resume writing and leave the coaching to others who work full-time as coaches. This kind of specialization and collaboration allows me to choose where it makes the most sense to apply my expertise and often it works out better for both the client and the professionals to split the work so each can offer the service their most talented at performing.
2. Collaboration speeds along the timeline of a project
As a manager, you’ve got to assign people to the task they love to do, not the old command and control. You need to work with the people, watch their attitude, and put them on the right assignment. Coach people as you go instead of waiting until the end of the year for a performance review. People appreciate constructive coaching that expands their capacity. Look for ways to develop your strengths and remain open to embracing people who are gifted in areas where you may fall short. You will find that the advantages of this strategy far outweigh the practice of continually needing to be the only and most successful person in the room.
3. Collaboration creates synergy
Synergy is essentially the combined action of two people, to create and achieve a result that individually would be impossible for each person alone. Group success thrives and dies on the creation of or lack of synergy.
4. Collaboration necessitates knowing your own limits
Successful collaboration necessitates knowing your own limits and embracing them. This is crucial to success on any project. Don’t over-extend your company. If you can’t deliver what a client is asking for with your skillset, find someone who can and hire them!
5. Collaboration builds trust
Those who excel at collaborating trust others to do their job and give them the authority to make decisions. Choose smart people to work with you and then let go and allow them to perform their job.
The people who understand synergy and collaboration are the ones who own the fortune 500 companies and are featured in newspapers and magazines as examples for how to create and sustain a successful business.