Collaboration skills are super important for the modern office. Go look at LinkedIn’s top 20 in-demand skills and you’ll see that they make the list a few times.
When we talk about collaboration skills, we’re talking about a mix of soft skills and strengths that–when brought together–help any team or group of people to get along and hit goals together. Great teams produce great things.
Lousy teams… um… don’t. Or if they do, it’s a slog.
Collaboration skills often mix together skills that different people have–most people have some collaboration skills, but few people have all of them. Things like problem-solving, active-listening, creativity, and empathy are vital, but aren’t always found in the same person.
That’s where collaboration skills come in.
In this article, we’re going to cover 18 vital collaborating skills you need, including a refresher on what the heck collaboration skills even are. Mastering these can improve your career, make your workplace better, and–if you’re managing people–help you lead a better-performing team.
- What are collaboration skills?
- Communication and Teamwork
- Emotionally Intelligent Collaboration
- Roles, Goals, and Vision
- Effective Collaboration Techniques
- Collaboration in Different Settings
- Professional Development and Soft Skills
- Chart of Top Collaboration Skills with Difficulty to Learn
- Creating a Collaborative Strategy
What are collaboration skills?
Collaboration skills are a mix of soft skills and behaviors that make it possible to work effectively with others. Collaboration skillare super important in most areas of life, but obviously vital in the workplace where they make it possible to get things done.
Teamwork makes the dream work!
Usually, we divide collaboration skills into two types of skills: interpersonal skills and team skills. Interpersonal skills are for working one-on-one with others while team skills help create group success.
But there’s lots of crossover between the two.
Here are some of the examples of collaborative skills that are relevant to one-on-one interactions:
- Active listening
Team collaboration skills, on the other hand, involve understanding various perspectives, managing priorities within the group, and fulfilling expectations as a reliable team member. Examples of these skills include:
- Critical thinking
- Group problem-solving
Both sets of skills are necessary for good collaboration and–ultimately–a happier workplace!
Communication and Teamwork
1. Verbal Communication
Verbal communication is vital for pretty much every type of collaboration. This collaboration skill allows you to express yourself and what you’re feeling — sharing thoughts and ideas with others. Communication can be a bit of an ability as well (here’s the difference between skills vs abilities)
If you struggle to express yourself well verbally, there are a few things you can do to fix it:
- jot down a few points you want to say (even in a meeting)
- try to take part in things where unstructured talking is okay (ie. brainstorming)
- ask someone to repeat back to you what you said… or ask, “Does that make sense?”
One of my favorite verbal communication hacks after a meeting is to ask someone, “Was what I said okay? Here’s what I wanted to say… did it come across that way?”
Asking for feedback is the best way to improve verbal communication.
2. Nonverbal Communication
Then there’s non-verbal communication. The unspoken rules of body language that are mired with cultural baggage and gender expectations.
Nonverbal communication is fraught with pitfals, but it can be improved too. Think about things like body language, your personal brand (clothes, style, grooming), and how you present.
LinkedIn has courses on mastering non-verbal communication, like this one!
3. Written Communication
The last of the communications is the written. Written communication is a super important collaboration skill in any office, since you’ll do a lot of it — especially if you’re remote! And there are generational differences — that’s why it was terrifying to me when my bosses would start emails with “Chris,” and not use exclamation marks.
Getting better at writing has gotten a lot easier with tools like Grammarly, that literally check your writing for you.
But like everything else, written communication usually gets better with practice and feedback. Here’s a quick checklist for your written communication…
|Checklist for effective written communication||Y/N|
|1. Did I use simple and clear language?|
|2. Does the outline make sense (for longer text?)|
|3. Did I proofread it? (out loud is best!)|
|4. Have I used things like numbers, bullet points, or lists to make it easier to read?|
|5. Did I have someone else proofread it? (for longer important documents)|
4. Active Listening
Okay, so we’ve covered three different ways of communicating. What about receiving what other people are saying?
One of the best collaboration skills to help others feel heard (and to actually hear what they’re saying) is called active listening.
When active listening, you can…
- Maintain eye contact and body language (ie. nodding along)
- Don’t interrupt!
- Repeat back what you heard to make sure you got it!
- Ask open-ended questions for clarification
Doing these simple things will make you a WAY better listener. But you can always try this LinkedIn Course too!
Emotionally Intelligent Collaboration
If the communication skills above are the nuts and bolts of collaboration, these skills go deeper. Emotional intelligence and the skills that make it up and take your collaboration from good to great.
For example, if you practice active listening without emotional intelligence, sometimes it comes off as trite or rehearsed. Adding emotional intelligence skills makes it stronger.
Here are the collaboration skills that draw on your emotional intelligence.
Empathy is pretty simple really.. it’s the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. To know what someone feels like.
Being empathetic helps you understand where others are coming from, and for teams it can for deep emotional bonds.
Here are a few ideas to boost the empathy on your team.
- Encourage open communication and sharing of thoughts, feelings, and concerns
- Make it a safe space for “emotion” language — welcome people talking about emotions.
- Name other’s emotions… not just what they’re saying. ie. “I’m hearing a lot of frustration. Is that right? How can I support you?”
- Validate other’s feelings. ie. “You have every right to be angry about this… I’d be angry too!”
Self-awareness is vital. Anyone who’s ever worked with someone with 0 self-awareness has felt the pain. When I think about self-awareness, I think about Michael from The Office. Half of the humor in the show is that he has 0 self awareness.
Self awareness is understanding who you are, understanding your emotions, strenths and weaknesses, and using them to guide your interactions with others.
That’s why it’s such a valuable collaboration skill. And as a team, self awarenesscan lead to your best work!
Here are a few examples of how to improve self awareness:
- Regularly reflect on strengths and weaknesses as individuals and as a team
- Ask for and provide constructive feedback
- Celebrate each team member for what they’re good at — and don’t judge them for what they’re not!
7. Listening without Judgment
Active listening is important, and emotionally intelligent collaboration makes active-listening into listening without judgement.
You’re not just hearing what someone’s saying. You’re creating a safe space for them to say what they need to. Listening without judgement creates trust and safety, and is essential!
Roles, Goals, and Vision
8. Establishing Roles
One of the important collaboration skills is clarity on roles, as in–who is doing what? Remember when you were kids and you had a group project, and one kid just wne off and did their own?
Yeah, that’s not great.
Establishing clear roles for each team member is vital for collaboration.
This might include:
- Clearly assigning different jobs to different team members.
- Make it clear what the expectations are for each team member.
- Communicate a lot and being willing to help each other.
9. Setting Goals
The next part of collaboration can be setting goals, making sure everyone is working towards an agreed upon end point.
It’s a bit cliche, but one of the best metrics for setting goals is the SMART criteria (goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound).
Here are a few tips for setting collaboration goals:
- Identifying short-term and long-term objectives for the project
- Breaking down complex goals into smaller, more manageable tasks
- Regularly reviewing progress and adjusting goals as necessary
10. Creating a Shared Vision
A shared vision is the final –and probably most important– step. A team with a shared vision can work together, pulling in the same direction and fighting for the same end.
Establishing a shared vision involves:
- Being really clear on what your “Why” is
- Setting the desired outcome for the project.
- Engaging all team members to agree on the vision (don’t force it on them)
- Communicating the vision often
Effective Collaboration Techniques
So we’ve covered some of the main collaboration skills that make up the human relationships of collaboration. So let’s talk about some of the techniques that you can use to collaborate!
Brainstorming is a collaboration technique of throwing stuff against the wall! (metaphorically)
Working together to come up with as many possible ideas to solve a problem and finding solutions everyone agrees on within those ideas.
12. Conflict Resolution
When there’s conflict, and there usually is some type of conflict, can you use conflict resolution skills? These skills have a lot to do with the ones we talked about above. It takes communication, active listening, and empathy to really solve conflicts.
Put together, conflict resolution is a great skill to have in your toolbox.
Collaboration in Different Settings
13. Remote Team Collaboration
If you’re doing a remote job or managing a remote team, collaboration can feel a bit trickier. But it doesn’t need to. Here are a few tips to master the skill of remote team collaboration.
- Use technology well: There are a lot of great tools out there. If the tech you’re using doesn’t cut it, keep looking until you find better ones.
- Build your team spirit: Working remote can be a challenge for collaborating. The more your team gets to know and trust each other, the better it will be. You can try things like team building activities or icebreakers to build rappore.
- Keep the same standards you would for in-person collaboration.
- Maintain regular check-ins: Conduct meetings to monitor progress, address concerns, and provide essential feedback
- Use different collaboration styles: virtual teams don’t need to be bound by the same limited options as in-person teams. You can try different collaborating styles (including asynchronous).
Chart of Top Collaboration Skills with Difficulty to Learn
Here are some of the skills we talked about above with their difficulty to learn:
|Collaboration Skill||Difficulty to Learn|
|Persuasion||Moderate to Hard|
|Emotional Intelligence||Moderate to Hard|
If you’ve mastered these collaboration skills, you’re ready to rock one-on-on work AND teamwork. We hope this article helped to give you some ideas on where the growth points for you and your team lie…