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How To Improve Your Collaborative Skills In the Workplace

Written by Jim Burgoon
Founder of The Everyday Leader
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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 @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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