Collaboration

As the youngest of three sons, I’ve been competing my whole life. Whether it was space in the back of the car during a long car ride or the consideration of a career outside of business or technology, my path has always felt like an adventure. Competition has been conditioned into my outlook on many things. Until now.

Patrick Lencioni, author of The Three Signs of a Miserable Job (Random House, 2007) has championed the idea of collaboration for years. In Three Signs, he pens, “And so I suppose that the real shame is not that more people aren’t working in positions of service to others, but that so many managers haven’t yet realized that they already are.” Service, therefore is key to working with others.

I’ve taken Lencioni’s advice to heart, seeing those that I used to view as “the enemy” as a fellow journeyman. One example comes from a graduate course I had recently taken in which I practiced collaboration instead of competition. My technique has been to serve those in the course with an idea, an act of hospitality or some other gesture of helpfulness. The result has been a more pleasant, almost useful, experience in which I’m getting more out of the course than I had ever dreamed. Here are some tips for being more collaborative:

Memorize the names of those with whom you work. Sounds so simple but many of us don’t even know the people in our department or division. Learning their names makes them seem somehow, more human.

Learn from those around you. No one person has the monopoly on the truth so learn from those around you. Is there an application that someone could help you use more effectively? Is there a policy or protocol that you are rusty with but the next guy is an expert?

Be likable. No surprise here- nice people get results. This is not to have you be a pushover at work but an ounce of niceness goes a long way.

Walk the hall. This is not a diversion to help you avoid your own work but an easy way to get to know people is just to pop by and ask them how they’re doing. You’ll also learn something from them by seeing how they work. You might also find that you have something in common with them simply by seeing their workspace.

Compliment with tact. A quality compliment can earn mileage long after the comment is made. During a meeting, in casual conversation or in an email, a quick one liner can build up your collaborative bank account.

The best thing about all of these suggestions is that they’re all free. Being collaborative doesn’t have to be difficult but it does take intentionality. Don’t get me wrong- I’m still competitive but now I see it as one lens of many that can be used at an appropriate time. It’s not necessarily the default for everyday life at home and at work.

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