Good Collaboration: Do you want me to follow directions, or are you open to exploring new ideas?

Good collaboration how one question can improve all types of collaboration. Four hands holding intertwining gears

Choosing between giving direction or sharing ideas might not always be as binary as it seems, and that’s precisely where the magic of collaboration comes into play. A 2021, Tweet from Dr. Paige Harden @kpd3k, shared how observing her children asking two questions could vastly improve collaborations.

Tweet from @kph3k on questions to ask about collaboration

Collaboration is more than just working together. Good collaboration is about harnessing the collective power of diverse minds and perspectives to achieve something greater. I strongly believe everyone needs an editor, but I also strongly believe everyone needs a supportive collaborator. I’m lucky to have found such a person in Liz who is one of the best people to think through ideas with because she often uses, “yes, and.” There’s magic in those words.

Defining Collaboration

Collaboration is the art of teamwork and shared effort. It’s the process of combining individual strengths, ideas, and resources to achieve a common goal or solve a problem. Good collaboration isn’t just about coming together; it’s about truly working together toward a common goal or objective. It’s about those moments when the whole becomes greater than the sum of the ideas, contributions, tactics and initiatives.

Collaboration thrives on communication, openness, and the willingness to listen, not ego or ownership. Environments where hierarchy and turf wars reign are not conducive to collaboration. Ultimately, collaboration needs an environment where everyone’s ideas and input are valued and starts with really meaning it when someone says at this point there are no bad ideas. Diverse perspectives can bring about innovation and creativity that might not have been possible otherwise.


Why Collaboration Matters

Collaboration matters, not only because it leads to better outcomes, but because it enhances our work and if done well, leaves everyone feeling valued. Each person brings a unique perspective to the table. When we collaborate, we tap into this diversity, which can lead to more comprehensive problem-solving and innovative ideas. Collaboration provides an opportunity to learn from others. It’s a chance to expand your knowledge and skill set by working with people who possess different expertise and experiences. We are not suggesting the work should be done by committee, or that the end product is up for a vote, this is more about working together with the end goal in mind.

Improved Decision-Making

Collaborative decision-making often results in more robust, well-informed choices. It allows for a thorough exploration of options and potential consequences. To reiterate, collaboration could be coming up with a theme or phrasing between two people. It could be a small group brainstorming ideas for attaining a specific goal or working together for a specific project. You’ll know when you’ve gathered enough input for the best results. You’ll also know who to include in the future and who to bring in for other times. Everyone on your team has a strength.

Strengthened Relationships

Working closely with others fosters a sense of connection and camaraderie. Good collaboration can improve teamwork, trust, and overall workplace satisfaction. In many cases, dividing tasks and responsibilities among a group of people can expedite the overall processes. When you leverage each other’s strengths, tasks are completed more efficiently, and each person is vested in the outcomes.

The Collaborative Spectrum

Collaboration isn’t one-size-fits-all. It spans a spectrum of approaches, from structured and directive to open and organic. Some of the most common forms are:

  1. Directed Collaboration: This approach is guided by a clear leader or organizer who sets the direction and assigns tasks. It’s effective in situations where a specific goal needs to be achieved efficiently.
  2. Participative Collaboration: Here, team members actively contribute their ideas and opinions. It’s a democratic process where everyone has a say, leading to more inclusive decision-making.
  3. Co-Creative Collaboration: This is the most open and organic form of collaboration. It involves creative brainstorming and innovation where the entire group contributes to shaping the final outcome. It’s often used in design thinking and innovation projects.

The choice of which mode to adopt depends on the nature of the task, the group’s dynamics, and the desired outcome. Sometimes, a combination of these approaches may yield the best results. The goal is not to water down the project by working as a committee, the goal is to let the best ideas surface.

Collaboration in Practice

In the workplace, collaboration is often encouraged because of its potential to drive success. Teams can pool their strengths and expertise, whether it’s for a creative project, problem-solving, or achieving a shared goal. Effective collaboration requires many of the skills necessary for good relationships in general such as active listening, open communication, and a willingness to embrace and respect diverse perspectives. Technology has transformed collaboration, making it possible to work together across distances and time zones. Virtual collaboration tools, project management software, and video conferencing have broken down geographical barriers, allowing people to collaborate seamlessly regardless of location.

Overcoming Collaboration Challenges

While collaboration is a powerful force, it’s not without its challenges. One common issue is the clash of personalities and ideas. Disagreements can be healthy, but they need to be managed constructively and a good leader should be able to diffuse situations before they become detrimental to the intended outcome or the overall working relationship. Collaboration should bring people and teams together, not make them frustrated or tear them apart. Another challenge is ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard. In larger groups, some individuals may feel overshadowed, leading to a lack of engagement. It’s the responsibility of team leaders and members to ensure inclusivity and active participation. Just because someone is the loudest voice, doesn’t mean their ideas are better.

Collaboration is a fundamental concept that has the potential to transform the way teams and departments and organizations work and interact. Good collaboration blends individual strengths and perspectives.

How to Ask Your Network for Help (templates included!)

image with hand and graphic representations of people in white depicting How to Ask Your Network for Help (template included) by Aurora Meyer on Dispatches from the Castle

Is there a specific organization you are interested in or job title you are looking for in your next position? No matter where you are in the search process, you absolutely must start making connections with organizations or individuals who can help you make that step.

You should start by scouring the openings at those organizations and measure your current skills with what they are looking for in a new hire.

Additionally, I would suggest reaching out to a friend of a friend or a former colleague to see if you could be connected to a recruiter or a hiring manager, ideally, through an email. LinkedIn is a great place to find connections (just make sure your profile is professional and up to date!).

For example, you could asl your mutual connection to send an email like this:
Hi NAME, my friend [YOUR NAME] is looking to [get back into the industry, take the next step in her/his/their career, change career paths, etc.] and is very interested in our organization. I wanted you to meet her/him/them in case you have any openings that might be a good fit for her skill set or you might have time to connect. I’ll let you two take it from here!”

Here’s an example I recently wrote:
Hello, NAME! I wanted to introduce you to our mutual colleague NAME. [DETAILS about who colleague NAME is and the connection/reason I’m writing].  She’s [job title plus a job-related compliment or achievement] and is an all-around really fantastic person. 

[mutual colleague NAME], please meet NAME. [DETAILS about NAME is and the connection/reason I’m writing. NOTE: this should reflect what you wrote above]. She’s [current job title and reason you are introducing these two people]. She’s [job-related compliment or achievement].
I will let the two of you take it from here!

Then as the person who is looking to make a change, you could reply, reiterate your interest in the organization and inquire if the person would be willing to talk [phone is preferred, though email can also work] suggestions and recommendations to make your candidacy stronger.

You did not build a network to look at, do not be afraid to use it! 

How to know when it is time to move on

Image depicting an employee and a clock to go with the post How to know when it is time to move on by Aurora Meyer on Dispatches from the castle

Over the course of your career, there will be times when you may start questioning if it is time for a new challenge.

At first, you may dismiss the idea or begin thinking about how much you like your team or feel supported by your boss. You may be able to quash the feeling for a while, particularly if you can pick up a new work assignment, attend a conference to inspire you, gain new responsibilities, or start working on a professional development project.

However, this feeling is likely to surface again. The best advice I’ve ever received about this is to pause and observe before reacting. In that pause, think about what triggered this feeling.

It is important to note that if the situation that triggered you involves harassment, bullying or other serious matters, you should absolutely speak up right away.

Perhaps the trigger was a coworker encroaching on your project or someone taking credit for your work. The trigger is only a portion of the answer you are ultimately looking for in this situation. You want to then think about why you were triggered by this specifically at this moment. Maybe these situations were easier to brush off before because there wasn’t a pattern. Maybe the real issue is you don’t feel supported by your supervisor. Maybe you’re just having a bad day.  Make a note of both the trigger, your reaction and why you feel this is an issue.

The advice part is to do this at least five times before you make a decision. You are ultimately looking for a pattern, which will help you whether or not you decide it is time to move on.

When you’ve done this at least five times, review your notes and see if you find a pattern. Then ask yourself a few questions: Is it consistently the same trigger? Is your reaction the same each time? Is this a solvable issue? Do you maybe need some time away from the office for some perspective? Would this issue exist in another job or with another supervisor? Is this going to steadily make things worse or can I ignore it?

Though only you can answer these questions, there are some instances where you will feel like it is time to move on.

These include:

  • a realization you are unfairly compensated
  • if you are mistreated, undervalued, or disrespected
  • if you find yourself no longer in agreement with the organization’s strategies, practices and direction and are not in a position to change them
  • interpersonal differences that increase over time with your manager or direct coworkers
  • feeling like you don’t fit in with the company culture

Another situation where you may consider moving on is when you are coasting and not learning or growing. Every job comes with skills and challenges. When you no longer feel like you are learning new skills or addressing challenges, it is easy to feel like you are stagnant.  In this situation, it would be a good idea to talk to your supervisor about stretch projects or opportunities to try something new. You could also look into a professional development opportunity and talk to your supervisor about how attending or learning that skill would help you do your current job better.

The truth is only you can decide if your job is no longer fulfilling.

Are your employees happy?


Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question,what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.

Are you completely sure your staff is happy? Even though they get on with their work without much fuss doesn’t necessarily mean that they are content. If you don’t think morale levels in your office are that great, try complimenting your employees and recognizing them for their efforts. You can also consider offering a perk, a something extra above and beyond a paycheck and benefits. While many of these tips are for businesses with more than one employee, make sure even if you’re a solopreneur that you are rewarding your hard work. Plus, consider this list future goals for when your business exceed the home office. 

Free Drinks And Snacks
This point may be quite obvious, but there are still so many companies out there who still don’t offer free drinks and snacks. If you have an office kitchen, place a fruit bowl full of fresh fruit. Make sure the fridge is full of bottled water, juices, and soft drinks. Your employees will probably appreciate an above average coffee machine like those from Honest Coffees over the traditional drip office coffee makers. 

Health Insurance
While you may be legally required to provide an employee health insurance, consider paying more for the plan or offering ways to offset the cost to the employee. While free things are nice, American employees regularly rank health insurance as one of the top benefits an employer can offer. 

Sick Days And Maternity Leave
There are other practical benefits that all employees find extremely attractive. Mainly extra paid sick days and maternity leave. When people are job hunting, they will look for perks such as these to help them decide which positions to apply for and may even take a lower paying job if the sick, maternity and vacation policies are better. If as an employer you can offer more than the average sick days and maternity leave, you may find yourself competing for better talent at a lower wage cost. 

After Work Drinks
Consider hosting a happy hour in the office after work on a Friday. Or take a field trip and pay for appetizers at a local restaurant and have employees purchase their own drinks. Make these events optional, but encouraged. With enough advanced notice, you may see more people in attendance than you thought.

Breakout Room
Hootsuite’s Vancouver office has a nap room for its employees! You might not want to go to that extreme, but you should consider creating a breakout room, which is slightly more than a simple break room with a drip coffee maker, a few chairs and a refrigerator. If you have the room, consider a ping-pong table or a foosball table. You might add a sofa or a few comfortable chairs. Breakout rooms are wonderful for brainstorming and impromptu colleague meetings. 


Quick Tips On How To Make Employee Management Easier

Boss - Pixabay

Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question,what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers. 

You probably became your own boss because you liked working for yourself more than you liked working for someone else. If you’re lucky to have outgrown solopreneurship and need to hire an additional employee or employees, consider implementing a few elements that might have made you more likely to stay at your last position. There are a few universal tactics that when implemented correctly could help you have a great relationship with dedicated and loyal employees. 

Make Work Flexible
As a business owner, it’s not your job to coddle employees. But if you can take steps to improve their quality of life while achieving your business goals, you should. Clock watchers just make everyone miserable. If appropriate, consider making work time flexible and trust your employees to get the work done. Employers who insist on certain working hours often end up creating a lot more work for themselves.

There have been great advances in remote working tools and there are many apps help businesses manage communication with staff and conduct projects.

Automate Payroll
Most people without experience in business assume that wages are the only cost of employing people. But there are plenty of other expenses that go along with the hiring and employing process. One of those expenses is managing payroll. Businesses spend hundreds of hours filing payroll taxes and payroll paperwork and it costs time in addition to money.

Fortunately, the process can be automated by using payroll software such as payroll 1099 software ETC

Be More Transparent
Recently, the American Psychological Association posted a report on employee trust. They found that around a quarter of workers in the US don’t trust their employer. About a half of all those questioned said they didn’t believe their company was always candid. A lack of trust makes the job of managing people a lot harder because employees are always questioning motives and concerned about ulterior motives.

Another consequence of a lack of trust is that employees aren’t forthcoming. If they recognize a problem, they’re more likely to keep it to themselves than to inform you. Thus, companies that lack transparency are more liable to have to deal with crises that seemed to come out of nowhere when usually there was something small that could have been fixed early in the process for a lot less time and money.

The other problem is that it is a barrier to collaboration. Employees often want to work together to solve problems. But if the culture is closed, problem-solving becomes harder. People are unwilling to share information that could be used to solve a problem or make a process better.

Build A Community
Management might not like this fact, but companies that are peer-to-peer tend to be a lot more successful. We’ve all grown up in a world where hierarchy is assumed to be the best way to do business. But innovative companies are showing that this is not necessarily the case. Just look at the success that companies like Valve have had using the peer-to-peer model.

The lesson here seems to be that a community of equals is far more productive than a hierarchy. Employees are more likely to feel that they have support and a stake in the organization. As a result, they’ll work harder and enjoy their job more.