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Growing Toward Being a Better Collaborator

What if you realize that you’ve got a trait or two that suggests you’re a person who shouldn’t collaborate? 

First, it’s okay to be a solo author. Plenty of people prefer to handle everything themselves, or to hire contractors and be the boss of their own career. 

Second, none of these behaviors make collaboration impossible, they just make it harder. Whoever you work with is going to have to be more patient, or more willing to stand their ground, or more able to have difficult conversations with you when things aren’t going well. Working with you is going to cause some extra emotional wear-and-tear on that person’s soul. You’re more work, but maybe you can find someone who knows you’re worth it. 

But third and most important of all, behavior can be changed, if you want to be a great collaborator and you’re willing to do the emotional work. It might be that these behaviors were modeled for you when you were growing up, and you adopted them because that’s how you saw others behave. 

Or it might be that these behaviors are arising from emotional issues you need to address, and that you’ll need to do some deeper work to eliminate them.

Self-awareness is the first step in changing — choose a behavior you want to change and start noticing when you’re doing it in your everyday life. 

  • When does it happen? 
  • What triggered it? 
  • What were you feeling right before you did the red flag behavior? 

Once you see the behavior clearly and you know what brings it out of you, can you come up with a substitute behavior — something more positive to do instead? 

For example, if you know that you’re a frequent interrupter, can you take a deep breath and nod every time you feel the urge to cut in? 

Or if you find yourself one-upping someone else’s idea, maybe you can stop yourself and say, “Sorry, I got distracted with that, but let’s go back to your idea.”

Increasing your level of self-awareness can also help you to take a step back and choose a different behavior in the moment. Meditation, journaling, therapy, and getting others’ feedback about when you’re falling into a negative pattern are all ways of becoming more self-aware of your behavior.

9 Actionable Steps to Transforming Into a Better Collaborator

Here are nine actionable steps to help you navigate the path toward becoming a more effective collaborator:

  1. Seek Feedback: Ask trusted colleagues, friends, or mentors for honest feedback on your collaborative style. Focus on understanding their perspectives without becoming defensive.
  2. Self-Reflection: Identify which traits or behaviors you possess that may not align with effective collaboration. Make a list of these traits based on your self-observations and feedback from others.Set Specific Goals: For each trait or behavior you wish to change, set specific, measurable goals. For instance, if you tend to interrupt others, a goal could be to pause for two seconds before responding in conversations.
  3. Develop New Habits: Choose one behavior to focus on at a time. Break down the behavior change into small, manageable steps. If you’re working on listening more actively, start by practicing in non-work-related conversations. Check back in with the person you’re talking with to reflect back what you’re hearing, or ask a question to clarify the other person’s thoughts or opinions without inserting your own. 
  4. Practice Mindfulness: Engage in mindfulness or meditation practices to improve your self-awareness. This can help you become more aware of your impulses to fall back into old patterns during collaborative efforts.
  5. Learn and Apply: Educate yourself on effective communication and collaboration techniques. Books, workshops, and online courses can offer valuable insights and strategies. Both The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, and Better than Before, by Gretchen Rubin are excellent starting points for anyone looking to reshape their habits towards more fruitful collaborations.
  6. Reflect and Adjust: Regularly review the progress toward your goals. Reflect on what’s working and what’s not. Be prepared to adjust your strategies as needed.
  7. Celebrate Progress: Acknowledge and celebrate your improvements, no matter how small. This positive reinforcement can motivate you to continue your efforts.
  8. Expand Your Practice: As you become more comfortable and proficient with one behavior, gradually introduce another area for improvement. This incremental approach prevents overwhelm and facilitates sustained progress.
  9. Embrace the Journey: The path to becoming a better collaborator is a journey, not a destination. Working toward better collaborative habits won’t just improve your ability to work with other people professionally, it also has the side benefit of improving every other relationship in your life as well.  

By following these steps, you’re not just preparing yourself for more effective collaborations; you’re also investing in your personal and professional growth. 

See you next Wednesday!