Photo by Alex Maness
Michelle Burrows, director of North Carolina A+ Schools, offers suggestions for successful collaboration.
• Remove the ego. When collaborators focus on team goals instead of personal gains, effective teamwork can happen.
• Listen. Listening actively rather than preparing what to say next helps people understand and empathize with their teammates.
• Lead and follow. In teams, leadership is shared, shifting from member to member based on the task. Be ready to lead or follow and shift easily between the two.
• Withhold judgment. Trust is essential for collaboration. Team members should be able to share their thoughts, opinions and beliefs without fear of judgment.
• Give up any need for individual credit. When the group succeeds, every team member succeeds.
• Celebrate the team. It takes hard work and deep personal engagement to create a successful collaborative team. Celebrate each member and the group’s achievements.
• Closed posture. Words aren’t required for a body to demonstrate judgment, disinterest or lack of empathy. Closed posture indicates a lack of openness to the collaborative process.
• Insist on “my way or the highway.” It’s difficult to collaborate when one team member “knows it all.” A lack of shared leadership can cause a collaborative team to self-destruct.
• Take credit. The saying “there’s no ‘I’ in team” should not be taken lightly. When team members are in it for personal gain and selfish reasons, collaboration is difficult.
• Undermine trust. It bears repeating: Without trust, team members resort to behaviors that harm the collaborative process.
• Compete. Healthy cross-team competition is OK. But competition within a team can bring out members’ insecurities, prompting unproductive behaviors and a breakdown in positive interactions.