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26 Feb 2017

Making collaborative working work

by Melanie Franklin

Collaborative working is the new phrase for what we used to call team working! We collaborate i.e. work together to find the best answers by applying our different talents and sharing our different perspectives. This sounds lovely but in practice it means learning to accept that others work differently, and not letting this get to us.

Old vs new ways of working

I was working with a close colleague on a task last week, watching how she was working so differently to me. I wanted to point out how I had done things because I thought her approach was taking too long and using too many resources. Of course, I thought my way was the best way! Mine is a typical emotional reaction to seeing others work differently to ourselves. Whilst telling others how they should be doing things gives us short term satisfaction, it isn’t a relationship building strategy:

  • The person being told what to do feels overly controlled, patronised and angry
  • The person doing the controlling misses out on different and possibly better techniques and approaches

Collaborative persona in practice

Instead of pointing out how brilliant my approach is, I practised what I call my ‘collaborative persona’. This is a two part activity:

  • Refrain from telling talented, experienced individuals how to work – just stop it, don’t open your mouth, don’t roll your eyes at them and don’t push them out of the way saying ‘not like that, like this!’
  • See the differences in how you do things and try to find something positive about their approach which your way of working doesn’t have. In this case, I thought my colleague was taking too long to review the work, reading it through on screen, printing out a copy to see how it looked on paper, making little adjustments to format etc. I walked away celebrating that she was catching typos I hadn’t seen which benefited all of us.

My own learning is that my ‘collaborative persona’ takes effort. It requires me to focus on what I am saying and doing, and to dig deep to find an alternative view. But this effort is always rewarded because by refraining from the stupid remarks, I have good working relationships with my colleagues that makes everything go faster, so there is more chance of me getting home on time!

Melanie Franklin
26th February 2017