Tips for Collaborating

Collaborating can be fun and a way to find new approaches to your work. Barbara and I always joke that we’ve written several books together and we’re still talking to each other, sometimes several times a day. Here are some tips we came across recently for getting the most out of your collaboration experience. 

Be clear. Don’t assume others understand you or what you’re going to do next. Don’t assume they are mine readers. 

Carry your weight. Once you have a clearly defined next step, do it. You can’t control other people, so focus on one thing you can control—your own work.

Have an agenda. Aimless meetings or phone calls that don’t produce anything are problems.  An agenda with clear goals and discussion items keeps you the project on track and everyone accountable. 

Don’t be shy. Yes, be polite, but don’t accept ideas you think are inferior. Don’t hesitate to offer your own ideas.

Stay visible. Nothing is more frustrating than someone who doesn’t respond to emails or texts for days at a time. Be responsive.

Remind yourself that no idea is too small. Don’t sacrifice details for focus on big picture stuff. Sometimes going down a lengthy rabbit hole can yield pure gold. 

Prepare your arguments. When you’re collaborating, you’re a committee member. Take time to organize your thoughts. 

Embrace discomfort. Collaboration sometimes means ways of working that you’re uncomfortable with, but unless this involves illegal or unethical activities, make an effort to embrace it.

Speak up early. If you’re not happy or comfortable with something, don’t simmer for months and then blow everything up. Speak up right away. And if you lose the point, be diplomatic and graceful.

Be prepared to go on alone. Give the project your best, and approach the partnership honestly. But if your partners fail and drop away, have a plan for how you’ll get something out of it anyway—and know how you’re going to handle it if you are the one who has to drop out. 

Collaborating with someone might be an amazing experience that changes how you work, or miserable one—either way it’s going to teach you something.

Adapted from an article by Jeff Summers, All Together Now, in Writer’s Digest, November/December 2019.

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