Career advancement at any level typically involves generating success on both a personal and team level. As positions become more senior, the collaborative and team component can become much more significant, in terms of the amount of time spent and the degree of complexity of the task at hand. Smart executives know how to bring the right expertise to a team situation, both in terms of their own skills and drawing on the abilities of others to generate a great result.
On this basis, it stands to reason that there is a need to bring together a wider range of skills and expertise to address issues encountered at the executive level, rather than relying on the power of one. It’s not surprising that the ability to work well on a team and collaborative level can be the difference between moving up to the executive ranks and staying in a position that doesn’t involve as much of this type of work. This is only one of the reasons why it’s important to start practicing these important skills now, as experience can contribute greatly to developing talent as a collaborator.
In this series, we have already considered the importance of a number of skills, including professional development, communication, and managing people. Here’s more about the why the ability to collaborate and be an effective team member are so important at the executive level.
Where it Goes Wrong
Those who are able to excel in the executive ranks understand that success generated as a team reflects well on both the group and its individual participants; this is a great reason to get involved and make your best effort. There can be a fine line, however, between successful collaboration and taking too much personal ownership of the result. Inappropriate behavior includes poor preparation, not seeing the perspectives of other team members, over (or under) contributing, and even taking credit for the ideas of others (yes, it happens).
The result can range from teams that don’t function well enough to accomplish much, to hard feelings between individuals. Any way you look at it, this doesn’t bode well for a harmonious and effective work environment on a day-to day basis (and may explain why difficult team members are sometimes shuffled off to other tasks with little explanation). Don’t let this happen to you!
Collaboration is both a state of skill and a state of mind. Do it well, and you might just find yourself being approached to contribute to all kinds of initiatives, and that’s a great way to practice and network at the same time. Here’s how:
- Do the preparation. In order to give full attention and participation to team sessions, it’s important to be well prepared in advance (don’t consider meeting time as an appropriate place for speed reading of background materials!). Be prepared to participate fully and take a leadership role where possible.
- Be careful with “alliances”. Day-to-day working relationships can turn into informal alliances between individuals to move initiatives ahead. This type of situation can be tricky, as complex business problems often require a better level of objectivity to resolve. Be sure to enter team sessions with an open mind to find the most favourable solution.
- Listen and learn. Moments of team member contribution is not a time to “zone out”(look around the room at your next meeting and gauge the number of people who are actually listening to what is being said). Make an active and deliberate effort to listen to the perspectives of others and learn.
- Keep an eye on the big picture. Collaborative sessions can involve a lot of details, particularly in terms of problem solving and implementation. Be sure to keep the “big picture” mandate of the team in mind to ensure that the process and your contributions are on point.
- Share the wealth. Make the effort to give credit where credit is due and don’t ever take personal acknowledgement for the achievements of the team or contributions of others. These missteps do not go unnoticed and can generate a lack of respect that can be difficult to overcome.
Think about it: we learned most of what we need to know about collaboration at a very young age; play nicely with others, wait your turn, listen, learn, don’t be a copycat, and celebrate the accomplishments of others. Some lessons are effective well into the future, so pull up your socks and start collaborating!