Collaboration skills are essential for any job or internship applications. Apart from your achievements, recruiters want to know how well you can work with a team. These skills are valuable because they tell the recruiter you are respectful of different values, adaptable and open-minded.
‘Creating a Collaborative Organizational Structure,’ a 2014 paper from Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina refers to trust, communication, shared vision and purpose as the building blocks of collaboration.
Good collaboration skills mean that you have high emotional intelligence, you are a team player, you manage stress and your emotions well and you are more likely to get your work done faster than the average person. These skills do not only affect your ability to work with others but also your ability to be productive, organized and adaptable to change.
What Collaboration Skills Are Important?
Communication is an essential part of any relationship and it is a key soft skill when trying to work with other people. It is important to speak openly, listen and consider the opinions of others, and recognize the contributions of your teammates. Putting group goals above individual goals, apologizing for mistakes and forgiving other people’s mistakes are signs of good collaboration skills. A good collaborator releases information on time and allows a safe space to reach consensus about methods of completing tasks.
Communication requires that you listen actively to the suggestions and ideas of your colleagues without judgment. This might mean asking for clarification when you don’t understand something. Communication goes beyond verbal communication skills. It also includes written communication and nonverbal communication skills such as tone and body language.
Accepting and Respecting Differences
One thing common in many workspaces is diversity. You will find people from different races, religions, social and cultural backgrounds. A good collaborator knows that apparent differences should not translate to disrespecting other people and refusing them their basic rights and privileges. Treating everyone equally is a necessary tool to master in both your personal and professional life. This involves staying away from discriminatory acts or omissions, e.g. refusing to let a minority speak, ignoring their contributions or making racist or sexist comments at the workplace.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize your and other people’s emotions and manage both in a way that minimizes negative impact. This includes empathy, controlling your strong emotions, not taking constructive criticisms personally and managing your emotions in a healthy manner. Emotional intelligence is a very important collaborative skill because it affects conduct in the workplace and conduct affects relationships.
Decision Making and Problem Solving
In the course of your employment, there are many times you are expected to make a decision and solve problems. Decision-making and problem-solving skills are essential skills to master.
With decision-making as a forte, you can mentally weigh issues and come up with acceptable and profitable solutions. You should only deal in facts and logic rather than let emotions cloud your judgment.
Having a positive outlook on life is a skill one should aspire to have. People generally prefer being around positive people. Having a positive outlook will help foster creativity and build a welcoming and safe environment for others. Being positive also gives you more room to learn from mistakes and accept change.
Positivity is often the glue that keeps a team working together. When inevitable challenges occur, the positive people in the group can lift everyone’s spirits up. They see the sunny side and can instantly transform a toxic mood.
The ability to negotiate and find a middle ground is a very important collaborative skill. It gives room for more beneficial decisions and makes it easier to reach a consensus.
Sometimes, you won’t agree with the majority’s opinion; that’s just a fact of life and the workplace. Yet you can still find a way to get what you need in certain situations. A collaborative individual will spell out the benefits of a plan or purchase rather than simply demanding for it.
Benefits of Collaboration Skills
Being a skilled collaborator is beneficial on an individual and organizational level in several ways that. They include the following:
- Room for quick problem-solving. A strong collaborative culture makes it possible for employees to quickly solve a problem by working together towards finding solutions. The team can quickly come up with unique and diverse range of solutions that benefit the product or business.
- It increases productivity. A strong collaborative culture speeds up productivity on an individual and team level. Everyone pools their skills together to reduce project time and increase project quality.
- It gives room for change. Collaboration makes it very easy to adapt to sudden change without suffering the consequences of rigidity.
- It improves the well-being of employees. People who work in an environment where empathy and emotional intelligence is the norm creates a safe environment where people are healthier and find it easier to grow. This also increases productivity for the people who possess this skill and the people that work with them.
- It increases self-esteem. The mere fact that you’re working with brilliant people will make your self-esteem rise up a notch. Being in a position where others want to collaborate with you can be gratifying on many levels.
- It makes you a better team player. If you’re a lone ranger, collaborating with others will sharpen your people skills. As you interact with colleagues from various social milieus, you’ll develop qualities that will make you a better team player.
How to Improve Your Collaboration Skills
Like all life skills, there is a need for constant improvement. Having the skill is good; refining and improving it all the time is better.
Here are a few ways you can improve your team skills:
When working with others, communicate your intentions accurately. You can’t build your nonverbal and verbal communication skills if you are not clear and direct with your messages. It is important to openly say what you mean and try to meet up with promises you make.
Practice active listening
Active listening can be hard and tricky but with constant practice, it becomes easier. One way to practice active listening is by removing distractions and not talking over someone when they are trying to speak to you.
Learn to solve problems without blaming others
Taking responsibility can be very hard but sometimes mistakes happen and you have to learn how to take responsibility for your mistakes. Be accountable and don’t try to deflect. People find it easier to work with someone who assumes responsibility for their actions.
Learn to compromise
Things will not always go your way and you need to learn how to work with others in order to find a middle ground. Even if you think you’re right, standing your ground at all costs may do more harm than good. Evaluate individual circumstances and step back, if necessary, for the greater good.
Set realistic goals and objectives
Setting personal goals is a very good way of improving existing skills. Having a target means you know where you are headed and that makes it easier to get there.
If you’re a team leader and a genius, remember that not everyone is you. Don’t expect them to finish a project in minutes like you can. Set goals for each team member that suits their skills, experience, and creativity levels.
Have a thick skin
People in a team will be subject to an unflattering comments now and then. Sometimes it’s about their work; sometimes it’s about their work ethic. Understand that not every verbal missile sent your way comes from a place of negativity. Take constructive criticism gracefully and work towards fixing your mistakes.
Appreciate your own contributions but also give the same energy to the contributions of others when they succeed. Shared celebrations bring team members even closer. This will increase work synergy and boost productivity.
Collaboration Skills in Practice
You work in a tech company and all but one of the employees are men. In a meeting, you do not speak over her or refuse to acknowledge her ideas. You listen actively and appreciate her contributions to the company. You do not discriminate in terms of assigning workload or paying salaries. Treating her as an equal will make her feel like she belongs. She will be more open about her ideas and bring a different perspective to brainstorming sessions.
Your colleague made a mistake with some important files. Instead of yelling at him for increasing your workload, you try to talk to him with empathy and understand why the mistake happened. By doing this, you foster an environment for safe and honest workplace conversations. He will appreciate your approach and be willing to work more carefully going forward.
Your team created two designs for a product label. There’s some indecision about which one to use. You’re the team lead and have the power to make the decision. But you put it to a vote and went with the popular choice. Your method of solving the problem made everyone feel involved and important.
How to Include Your Collaboration Skills in Your Resume, Cover Letter, and Interview
There are many ways you can talk about your skills and how they can benefit others without sounding too boastful. It is important to tailor your skills according to the job or opportunity you are aiming for.
There are many ways to add your collaboration skills to your resume. You can simply list them under the skills section of your resume. Another way is to tailor your experience section to highlight your collaboration skills. The latter option allows a bit more room to personalize things.
If your previous roles all had collaborative elements, you can also modify your summary to reflect your people skills.
You won’t know the questions you’ll be asked during the interview beforehand but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare. The type of skills needed for the job per the job listing will help in this regard.
Mastering the STAR technique can be helpful here. STAR is an Interview technique that stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result.
- Situation. The context that gave rise to a job or challenge that required a solution. A valued team member getting sick while working on an important project, for example.
- Task. Your role or responsibility when the situation arose. Maybe you had to take over the sick teammates’ assignment.
- Action. How you carried out your role. Your specific and individual actions (as opposed to what the team collectively did) that moved the needle. Perhaps you worked extra hours to beat the deadline.
- Result. The outcome of your intervention. Maybe the management happily approved your work and the client loved it.
You can employ this technique to show off your collaborative skills. Frame your answers in terms of situations that involve being in a team or working with one. Talk about how your actions directly led to faster teamwork or better quality output. In the end, the recruiter must be convinced you’re the team player they’ve been looking for!
When writing a cover letter, it is important to go straight to the point just like with an interview question. Actually, it might be helpful to treat a cover letter like a written interview.
If the job description mentions lots of collaborative skills, keep that in mind while crafting your cover letter. Recall experiences that showed you as a contributor in a team setting and relate them to the potential job.
Collaboration seems easy on the surface but can be hard to master in an office setting. Having core collaborative skills such as clear communication and emotional intelligence will make life easier in a work setting.
The importance of these skills cannot be emphasized enough. It can increase productivity and raise self-esteem at work. Hence, you should strive to become comfortable working with others. This way, when you stand in front of the recruiter or HR personnel, you’ll have plenty of team-player experiences to tell them about!