Published on March 25, 2021

How To Improve Your Collaborative Skills In the Workplace

How To Improve Your Collaborative Skills In the Workplace

One of the most significant factors that contribute to any team’s success is its ability to collaborate. Yet, collaborating isn’t always easy. The ability to collaborate is an acquired skill. Working as a cohesive team doesn’t come naturally. We have to work at growing together. We have to develop a flow in which our time, talent, personalities, and skills all come together to accomplish a goal.

How to improve your collaboration skills should be the focus of your professional growth. When we focus on growing in our ability to collaborate, we succeed in achieving our goals. The ability to accomplish our goals is solely dependent on our ability to overcome our hang-ups, egos, and challenges long enough to become a cohesive team. The success of the organization happens when we decide to develop collaborative skills.

As we dive into our understanding of how to improve our collaborative skills in the workplace, it is essential to note a difference between teamwork and collaboration. Even though it may seem as if collaborative communities and teams are the same, they are not.

Both teamwork and collaboration involve an assortment of people working together to complete a shared goal. However, there is a critical difference between collaboration and teamwork. Teamwork combines all team members’ individual efforts to achieve a goal. On the other hand, collaboration happens when people are working together to complete a project collectively. Collaborative teams have no leader and little hierarchical structure. They pool their thoughts and talents together to accomplish the goal. A team is a collective of people, who have a leader, a structure, and delegated individual tasks to complete to contribute towards the team’s end goal.

The main differences between the two are that one focuses on developing leads while the other focuses on developing employees. When we develop leaders, we all win. When we create employees, we limit our growth potential. The bottom line is that if you want to grow your organization, focus on team development. If you’re going to multiply your organization, focus on building a collaborative community. Teams work while leaders collaborate. Both are important and bring value, but shifting your focus to building collaborative skills is a declaration that you desire to develop leaders. Especially if your team is now working virtually.

With that said, what are the primary skills that each collaborative community must develop to succeed?


Primary Collaborative Skills To Develop

There can be several collaborative skills we can develop:

  • Communication
  • Group brainstorming
  • Emotional Fitness
  • Problem-solving
  • Setting Priorities
  • Transformative Thinking
  • Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Debate

As in-exhaustive as this list could be, the above provides several must-have collaborative skills in your organization’s operation. They are non-negotiable values. Improving your collaborative skills are not optional. We must lead ways to improve our collaborative skills within the workplace or run the risk of becoming ineffective.

Regardless of the collaborative values, there is one thing for sure. You have to improve your collaboration skills. What you don’t grow will die. Success will be unattainable if your collaborative community fails.

How To Improve Your Collaboration Skills in the Workplace

1. Deeper Your Trust

Trust is given, not earned.

You may have heard the reverse of that. The statement has traditionally been, “trust is earned and not given.” This is the worst advice you can carry. It carries with it a strong distrust in people.

You can never empower someone you do not trust. Trust needs to be given, not earned. Allow the team to lose it. I know this feels backward and counterintuitive. The question we have to ask ourselves continually is if we want to remain safe or grow. Growth takes risks. Risks are demonstrated in your ability to give away part of your authority to your team. As I mentioned, if you can’t trust your team, you won’t delegate authority. Thus, you will not accomplish the goals you set out to do.


As a community of professionals, continuously build the collaborative skill of trust. Deepen your understanding of one another. Show your team you genuinely care about them. Make sure they know that you value what they bring to the team. Help them understand that they are not just tools to complete a mission but a collective of individuals who are building something great.

When trust is built, expanded, and deepened, the team moves to a new productivity level.

2. Improve Your Self-Awareness

Understand your personality, your strengths, your weaknesses, and your hang-ups are imperative to growing your collaborative skills. Most teams’ struggle is that instead of being a collaborative community, they are a collective of individuals. Being a collective of individuals would be ok if you worked in a team and not a collaborative community.

The key to building your skills within a collaborative community is found in the level of your self-awareness. Most people are only self-aware enough to get the job done. This is the lowest level of self-awareness. At this level, there is no creativity, no connection to the real you, and minimal emphasis on leadership or leadership development.

Improving your self-awareness helps you understand who you are. Also, it helps you know how you properly fit into the community. The greater understanding I possess of myself (personality, strengths, weaknesses, and hang-ups), the more useful I can be within the community.

If we do not have a high level, or growing level, of self-awareness, then being an effective member of the collaborative community will escape you. Working towards building your collaborative skills within the workplace will take time and effort. Using tools like personality tests, strength finders, and mentors can help you speed up the process.


3. Embrace Change

Change is the only constant within the workplace. Instead of fearing change, make it your competitive advantage. Allow change to fuel you instead of draining you. It would be best to shift your thinking from someone who reacts to change to someone who initiates change.

Those who can embrace change are those that can adapt to anything within the workplace. Stress is an occupational hazard within high-performing teams and collaborative communities. Embracing change is imperative if you are going to grow in your collaborative skills.

Embracing change means I am learning how to operate with flexibility and adaptability. What people miss is that working in a collaborative community requires a high degree of flexibility and adaptability. If we fail to learn how to embrace change, we will fail to develop the collaborative skills needed to contribute to a highly successful community.

Embracing change requires both trust and self-awareness. You will have to learn to trust your instincts and wisdom. There will be times when you have to trust the collective instincts and insights of your community. You will need to know how you respond to stress and what you can do about it. It is within this place of convergence that true collaboration can be born. A place where you each trust one another, adapt to change, learn one another, and work together towards a joint mission.

Learn How To Embrace Change In Life (Even If It’s Hard to Change).

What Happens If You Don’t Improve Your Collaboration Skills

After seeing how to improve your collaborative skills, you start to wonder what would happen if you don’t improve.


Here are just a few situations:

Failed Projects

The inability to collaborate creates a failure to complete tasks. The possibility of unfinished or faith projects exponentially increases.

Unmet Targets

Aiming at a target does not guarantee that you will hit it. The purpose of a collaborative community is that they complete the tasks they are given. A team that isn’t improving their collaborative skills tends to miss the mark on their targets.

Unhappy and Unproductive Teams

Finally, if a collaborative community can’t address its collaboration roadblocks, teams may become disgruntled and lead towards ineffectiveness. An unhappy team is an unproductive team, especially when they aren’t sure what they’re working towards. Improving your collaborative skills gives you the advantage because it creates high morale within the group.

Bottom Line

If you are going to create success, then you will want to improve your collaborative skills. Simple changes over time create massive success. Don’t be the person who allows your team to fail because you failed to focus on improving your collaborative skills.

Don’t wait until you are ready. Start today and build the collaborative skills needed to create the success you have been envisioning. Remember that mission completion is a team effort. You need to develop your collaborative skills because you can’t do this alone.

More Essential Work Skills

Featured photo credit: Christina @ via

More by this author

Jim Burgoon

Founder of The Everyday Leader

How To Improve Your Collaborative Skills In the Workplace How to Become a Leader That People Respect How to Work Hard the Smart Way: 4 Daily Rituals to Follow

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!



That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.


The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.


You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.


Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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