A+ tips for collaboration

Photo by Alex Maness

Michelle Burrows, director of North Carolina A+ Schools, offers suggestions for successful collaboration.

What helps:

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.

What hinders:

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.