Collaboration Definition, Skills, and Examples

Team in a meeting
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Virtually every imaginable job in today's workplace entails at least some joint effort by team members in order to accomplish goals, making cooperation an essential skill in most sectors of the work world.

What is Workplace Collaboration?

Collaboration skills enable workers to interface productively with others on the job.  Successful collaboration requires a cooperative spirit and mutual respect.  Employers typically seek employees who function effectively as part of a team and are willing to balance personal achievement with group goals.

In some cases, teams that collaborate may be members of the same department working on ongoing activities that require coordination. In other cases, interdepartmental teams are assembled to carry out a special project.  

Collaboration can occur between many different types of partners. Collaboration often occurs among members of a work team in the same department. However, collaboration can also occur between bosses and subordinates or between members of different departments who form a cross-functional team. 

Service providers can collaborate with clients to achieve goals, and vendors can cooperate with customers to implement products or services. Collaboration can also occur with individuals outside one's employer such as business partners, customers, clients, contractors, volunteers, and suppliers.

Elements of Successful Collaboration

1.  Clearly defining and agreeing on the roles of partners in the collaborative process.

2.  Open communication within teams to share the information necessary to carry out tasks.
3.  Consensus about goals and methods for completing the project or task.
4.  Recognition and respect for the contribution of all collaborators.
5.  Identifying obstacles and addressing problems cooperatively as they occur.

6.  Placing group goals above personal satisfaction and/or recognition.
7.  Willingness to apologize for missteps and forgive others for mistakes.

Examples of Collaboration Skills

A - L

  • Actively listening to the concerns of team members
  • Agreeing on roles that capitalize on individual strengths
  • Analyzing problems without assigning blame
  • An IT staff member working with the payroll manager to modify the automated system for processing payroll
  • Assertiveness
  • Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of partners
  • Brainstorming solutions to problems
  • Building consensus about goals and processes for group projects
  • Compromising when necessary to move the group forward
  • Defining mutually acceptable roles
  • Delegating tasks with open discussion
  • Displaying a willingness to find solutions to problems
  • Drawing consensus around goals and processes
  • Eliciting the views of reluctant group members
  • Facilitating group discussion
  • Following through with commitments in a reliable manner
  • Forgiving others when they come up short
  • Giving credit to others for contributions
  • Interviewing clients to determine their needs and preferences
  • Identifying obstacles to success
  • Investing the required time and energy in collaborative tasks
  • Leadership
  • Listening to the concerns of team members

    M - Z

    • Maintaining a sense of humor and fun whenever possible
    • Making sure the perspective of quieter collaborators is heard
    • Meeting deadlines for individual contributions
    • Members of a Human Resources department meeting with a consultant to develop a new family leave policy
    • Modifying roles and processes to enhance efficiency and satisfaction among partners
    • Nurses and Doctors in the emergency room playing complementary roles to treat patients
    • Openness to new ideas about how to proceed
    • Public Affairs official from a corporation cooperating with the American Cancer Society to plan a fundraising event
    • Recognizing and resolving conflicts with collaborators
    • Recognizing the contributions of other collaborators
    • Recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of collaborators
    • Reliability
    • Selecting compatible partners to carry out projects
    • Sharing feelings of frustration or dissatisfaction as they occur
    • Speaking respectfully with team members
    • Taking responsibility for mistakes
    • Teachers and parents working together to develop strategies to modify a child's disruptive classroom behaviors
    • Updating collaborators on developments with the project
    • Working hard to fulfill obligations to the team

    Although collaboration is often described as a “soft skill,” in today’s workplace it is just as vital as a strong educational background  and / or technical knowledge. And, even though productive collaboration skills may not be innate to some individuals, they can easily be learned and “practiced to perfection.”

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