Here are 10 tips for successful business collaboration that I've found essential at Kerio. These tips should work with any team or organization (herding cats can be a lifelong occupation). Enjoy!
1. Keep your eyes on the goal
Never lose sight of what you’re all working toward. Make that focal point your "magnetic north" for all strategies, decisions, and actions. Help your colleagues to stay the course when things get confusing, or difficult. Detours can be helpful, but more often than not, they just take you further away from your goal.
2. Extend trust first
We don’t always get to choose with whom we’re collaborating. Sometimes it’s with people we don’t know or, worse, people we don’t like, or people of whom we’re unsure. Forget the gossip, forget the rumors. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt and extend your trust first. It’s amazing how the simple gesture of extending your trust can break down barriers and kindle fantastic life-long relationships. Remember we don’t know the challenges everybody else has got going on in the background.
3. Know what you’re good at and what you suck at
Take stock of your strengths. Take an honest look at your flaws. Leverage the strengths and get help for your flaws. We all have both. Take on the tasks you can handle with ease. Volunteer for the ones that will help you grow. If you’re assigned something you know you’re hopeless at, get help from a colleague. Chances are someone else is facing the same dilemma. Two (or more) heads are better than one. The genius of collaboration is you get to pool your talents to get the work done.
4. Be willing to help and be helped
When someone comes to you for help, do it. Especially when you don’t know what to do, help them. You’ll be amazed at what you learn about yourself, and your colleague, when you take on something new. And that applies in reverse too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t turn away anyone who offers to help you. It’s from these interchanges that the strongest relationships are forged. (Not to mention the memories!)
5. ABC = Always be courteous
You may be having a lousy day, or feeling awful, but that’s not a license for being rude. To anyone. For any reason. If you can’t be courteous, go home. Your colleagues don’t need a downer. Life is tough enough.
6. Turn off your sarcasm channel
Make no mistake. Sarcasm is anger disguised. When you make a sarcastic remark, you’re taking your anger out on others. It’s passive-aggressive behavior that serves no one, especially you. It’s mean and thoughtless. It shuts down productive conversation. Keep it up and eventually you’ll become the poster child for All By Myself.
7. Get together outside of work hours
The highest performing teams find ways to get together after work hours and socialize. Whether it’s at the local watering hole, or a weekend BBQ, you get to see a different side of one another. Suddenly you find out that Ann sings in a country-western band, John’s a die-hard rugby nut, Sue does fabulous photography, and Dave has the biggest CD collection you’ve ever seen. Who knew? And if you’ve got virtual colleagues, find ways for them to join the rest of you in the flesh every few months. Or if that’s cost-prohibitive, get creative — e.g. Skype video calls, Google hangouts, Apple FaceTime — where there’s a will, there’s a way.
8. Keep communication open
Agree together on how you’re going to communicate with each other. Wikis, project management tools, email, chat, IM / text, video, social media — what tools will you use, when will you use them, how often is too much / not enough, and for communicating what. For instance, is communicating after work hours acceptable, or a taboo? Is text messaging ok or do you want all “conversations” in your project management tool. What defines an “emergency” and how does the word spread? Whatever the rules are – figure it out, get agreement, stick with it, tweaking to improve it as you learn what works. At Kerio, we use Samepage (of course!) as our go-to collaboration tool.
9. Share your ideas and build on others
Sharing your ideas is important. But so is building on others’. Good ideas can come from anywhere. Try exploring other people’s ideas first for a change and build on them. You may just discover even better ones together.
10. Celebrate Wins – Big and Small
Find ways to celebrate every success, no matter how small. And the further away your goal, the more important the little wins become. It can be as simple as buying a colleague her favorite coffee drink while saying “congrats for getting that newsletter out on time.” Or as elaborate as tickets to the local football game, complete with catered tail-gate party for for reaching the first major milestone. Keeping motivation high is crucial – and such celebrations matter more than money.