Are you collaborating intelligently?

In the next of our articles on applying strengths in the workplace, we look at working together:

What does collaboration mean to you?

For many of us, it comes in the form of sitting in meeting rooms talking about things that are unnecessary or irrelevant, potentially with the wrong people. Or shouting questions across an open plan office (a bad habit of mine!). But I’m pushing for a different concept of collaboration – one that draws on the best of each person and leaves everyone feeling valued and happy. That is, strengths-based collaboration.

Everyone has strengths: things they love doing and are great at; and when we recognise what these are and enable people to spend more time doing these things, we boost their wellbeing and results.  Although it may seem obvious, the reality is that most people don’t take the time or effort to collaborate intelligently.

I believe that this comes from a combination of two things: being too busy to be thoughtful about the delegation of each task; and our mirror-imaging bias – the belief that others view things through the same lenses and viewpoints as us, and therefore love and despise the same tasks as us. The reality, of course, is that teams are made up of people with different personalities and strengths, who enjoy and thrive doing a range of different tasks.

So, here are three simple steps to build more intelligent and positive collaboration in your teams:

1. Discover your strengths, and the strengths of the people around you (check out how you can do this here)

2. Review work currently going on (or coming up), and agree how to collaboratively manage it to play to peoples strengths, skills and experience as much as possible

3. Empower every person to be confident in calling out opportunities where the team are/aren’t playing to strengths, creating accountability and sustainability

Playing to our strengths allows us to get into flow more easily, perform better and enjoy our work more. It is also clear that the best performing managers align talents with projects and emphasise strengths over seniority when moving and managing talent2 (read my last article for more on this). By understanding the strengths of the people around us, we can delegate work more intelligently, weighing up skills, knowledge and strengths to get the best result whilst boosting motivation and happiness.

To help individuals and organisations use their strengths most effectively, we’ve developed a series of six 45-minute workshops teaching people how to apply them in different workplace scenarios – find out more here.

Happy collaborating 😊

2 Clifton & Harter, 2003

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