Collaboration skills: definitions and examples
Effective communication skills are highly desirable for those working in a variety of job roles and industries. Knowing how to work well as a team and cooperate with one another, allows teams, departments and businesses to contribute towards a common goal. Understanding what collaboration skills are and how to improve them, will support you in your career development and aid in the success of your team. In this article, we define collaboration, provide collaborative skills examples and share how you can improve your collaboration skills.
What is collaboration?
Collaboration involves a group of two or more people working together towards a common goal. Teams may work together to develop a product, complete a project or solve a problem. Whatever the task at hand may be, cooperation skills allow teams to work together more effectively. Some skills that help to contribute towards effective collaboration include:
strong communication skills
Being a team player and working well with others are desirable qualities in many jobs, as companies rely on their employees to work together to achieve common goals. Working as a team is not only more efficient than working alone, it can also be an opportunity to develop your skills. Through collaborating at work you have the opportunity to learn from coworkers and share ideas.
Related: 9 workplace collaboration benefits (with types and tips)
Examples of collaboration skills
To collaborate effectively, you need to be open-minded, inclusive and able to overcome conflict. When working as a team, peoples' differences are an asset as they can provide alternative perspectives and unique skills. However, differences can be a cause for disagreements within the team, so effective communication and emotional intelligence skills are important to work well together. Top skills to improve collaboration include:
Active listening involves paying full attention to a speaker, in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of their message before responding appropriately. By remaining focused on the speaker and minimising distractions, you can better interpret their tone, choice of words and body language and in turn have a greater understanding of their thoughts, feelings and needs.
By practising active listening, you'll be able to understand other peoples' perspectives and collaborate with them more effectively. Not only will this improve your problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills, but it will also allow your teammates to feel heard and that you value their opinion.
Read more: How to improve your active listening skills (with steps)
When working collaboratively, strong communication skills are essential to success. A team can collaborate most effectively when everyone contributes and shares their thoughts and ideas. So finding the balance between speaking up to share your perspective and allowing others to share their own views is key.
Open communication amongst coworkers is the goal, but as individuals have varying levels of confidence in speaking up in group situations some may feel less comfortable sharing their views. In order to mitigate this, those with strong communication skills may notice non-verbal cues, such as body language, and ask questions to encourage their coworkers to contribute.
Related: Positive body language and gestures that put people at ease
When working as a team, it's important to have the organisational skills required to delegate work, provide deadlines so that projects remain on time and ensure you meet those deadlines. Time management and organisation skills will also ensure you're managing your own workload efficiently, so as not to impact the rest of the team negatively.
Related: What are organisational skills? (Types and examples)
To collaborate effectively, you must remain open to others' ideas and opinions. Often coworkers will come to different conclusions than your own, so keeping an open mind and listening to their perspectives without judgement is important. This allows everyone in the team to feel included and will help you better understand others.
Conflict resolution skills
Conflict resolution is the ability to work through and overcome conflict. Whether that's within your team or with clients, conflict resolution skills help you to understand the other party's opinions and beliefs so that you can cooperate with one another to reach a compromise or resolution.
It's inevitable that conflict will arise when working with others, however, the way you overcome conflict is what's important. Open communication can help to identify the cause of the conflict and collaborative problem solving can help teams to move past conflict should it arise.
Related: What are conflict resolution skills? Definition and examples
When working collaboratively, things may go wrong from time to time. Whether it's because of conflicting schedules, misunderstanding delegated tasks or changing deadlines, when faced with a stressful situation it's important that you're able to remain calm and adapt. Unforeseen issues can arise within any project, so being able to adapt to the new environment and find a swift solution to problems as they come up are excellent skills to have as a collaborator.
Related: How to demonstrate adaptability and flexibility at work
Strong emotional intelligence skills can make you a valuable team member on collaborative projects. Employers seek soft skills such as emotional intelligence as these skills help to facilitate better collaboration and cooperation within the workplace. With strong emotional intelligence skills, you can recognise that snappy coworkers may be stressed and need help with their workload. Picking up on these cues will enable you to better support teammates and enable the group to work together more effectively.
Related: 10 valuable soft skills that you need to succeed in your career
How to improve collaboration skills
There are many ways that you can improve your collaboration skills. As you collaborate more often, you may notice some of these skills develop naturally through experience and practice. However, here are some tips to help develop your skills:
1. Set clear goals and objectives
Coming together to prepare a clear objective and timeline for a project will allow the team to determine and communicate the goal for a project. After everyone has had a chance to contribute and agree on objectives, they are all then accountable for achieving the targets set. This keeps projects structured and facilitates collaboration between team members as things progress.
Related: Goal-setting templates (And when to use them)
2. Take responsibility for mistakes and avoid assigning blame
Building trust with coworkers is essential to collaborate effectively. When mistakes happen, taking ownership of them and finding a resolution will show teammates they can rely on you. Likewise, when others make mistakes, avoid assigning blame and instead forgive and move past mistakes to find solutions swiftly.
3. Communicate clearly and be transparent about progress
Being clear with teammates about your intentions when working on a task will help to set their expectations for what the outcome might look like, and also allows the opportunity for them to share advice or guidance. Keeping the team updated as your work progresses is important, particularly if you are behind or need help to complete a task. The clearer you are in your communication, the greater opportunity you provide for colleagues to assist when necessary.
Related: What is a highlight report? (Definition, benefits and tips)
How to highlight your collaboration skills
There are many collaboration skills and desirable qualities that recruiters look for during the recruitment process. Understanding how to present your skills in your CV, cover letter and interview can help you find success in your job search:
1. Include collaboration skills in your CV and cover letter
Always review the job description for the role you're applying for when writing your CV and cover letter. Identify the cooperation skills the recruiter is looking for and how much collaborative work the role entails so that you can highlight the skills they would like candidates to have and share examples of times you have worked collaboratively. Using bullet points to present your collaboration skills within the skills section of your CV is a clear and concise way to communicate your expertise to recruiters. Some desirable collaboration skills to mention include:
Time management and organisational skills
Active listening skills
Ability to work well with others
Open-minded and adaptable to change
To keep your CV concise, it's best to save extended examples of your skills for your cover letter. CVs should generally be around two pages long, so use the space within your cover letter to elaborate on your collaboration skills and provide specific examples of how you've demonstrated those skills in the past. For example:
‘I've previously worked within teams on projects at work and understand the challenges that collaborative projects can present. However, thanks to my past experience I've developed my conflict resolution skills and have become more resilient too.'
2. Discuss your collaboration skills in an interview
Make sure you come to the interview prepared with specific examples of times you have demonstrated the collaboration skills outlined in the role's job description. In addition to talking about your collaboration skills, the interview is a good opportunity to demonstrate those skills. For example, ensure you're showing your active listening and communication skills by focusing on the speaker and asking questions when you need further clarification.
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