Key to Collaborating Effectively

Collaboration at work in various degrees is always present. A company or organisation works because we have multiple people contributing their varying set of skills and competencies, experience levels and ideas, and thus collaborating in a subtle, unnoticed way. Within and between the organisations too, there are opportunities to consciously collaborate on projects, meetings and objectives.

Collaboration is everywhere, team-work is everywhere, and yet sometimes we end up feeling overwhelmed or unnecessarily called out. Departments might feel the workload is lopsided, that some departments have it easy. At the group level too, individuals might feel some of them are doing more work than the others. On the other hand, some might not even understand the need to collaborate in the first place.

The question then arises- how to collaborate effectively? Let us have a look around the question, and what pointers can be kept in mind.

Collaborate to Build Capacity:

Collaboration is about complementing the limitations of one side and using the strengths of the other to balance things out. Hence, it involves some form of helping, uplifting, which can be a huge motivation for people. Moreover, some people just go the extra mile because that is just how they function- they like to take on responsibilities head on.

 On its downside, this motivation can also lead one to overwork and micromanage actions of others, leading to feeling like ‘I am doing all the work here’.  At some point, a few people carrying the lopsided wagon are going to undergo some form of burnout.

To avoid such a situation, it’s a good idea to remember that collaboration is about building capacity of everyone. As an article by Harvard Business Review points out:

‘Helping is the quintessential constructive act, and it gives us a sense of purpose, fulfils a deep need to be useful, and bolsters our identity. But if you jump in too quickly or too often or in ways that solve others’ problems without building capability, you inevitably become the path of least resistance for too many requests.

….. Don’t solve peoples’ problems directly when you do jump in. Instead, connect them to the right people, point them to the information or resources they need, or coach them on how best to solve the problem. ‘

It is about showing the direction, perhaps delegating but ultimately walking together.

But then there is the opposite end of this spectrum.

Not Everyone Might be Very Enthusiastic to Collaborate:

There are individuals who are willing to take on collaborative projects, ready to interact with people across the world, literally and figuratively. And then there are the ones who might see the collaboration as an attack on their skills and competencies. The underlying feeling might be ‘Do they think we are not capable enough to do this on our own?’

This might especially be the problem with people who are experts or super-specialists. Seniors might feel attacked and juniors might feel underconfident about their abilities. Some others might just feel like the collaboration is ‘an imposition on their time’ and ‘extra workload’ as an article by Mindtools puts it. This is especially true for people who like to work more independently.

To avoid, this, it is important to first, to be clear about the purpose of collaboration and second, to let the collaborators know what’s in it for them.

As the articles goes on to point out, a strong, shared purpose can work wonders in this attitude. And letting people know how this collaboration would help them, for example, something as simple and straightforward as a bonus, more recognition, a chance to develop and learn new skill(s), career progression, can work as a great motivation for a good attitude towards the idea of collaboration.

The More the Merrier? Not Always:

A very basic and obvious sounding pointer to keep in mind: the key to collaborating effectively is not simply to involve a greater number of people but to involve the right people.  An analogy of a team-sport like football can work here: when the team is not playing well, more players are not added. Instead, some players are substituted for new players who might be feeling less tired, or who might have the specific set of skills needed to win the particular game.

Moreover, the ‘substitution’ is not seen as a lack of skill of the player who is replaced- their skills might be used better in a different game. The ‘substitution’ is not simply a replacement per se– it is rather letting the one who has the relevant skills for that context take the lead. The substituted player still has a place in the team.

Similarly, when a task or a project doesn’t seem to be working out too well, the key might be to recheck the kind of skills and competencies that are needed for the task, and ‘substitute’ the team members accordingly.

At an organisational level, this ‘substitution’ can simply be seen as letting one department take the lead on the particular project, rather than replacing anyone or anything entirely. It’s a win-win situation. Again, taking on the lead doesn’t mean that there is no delegation or no walking together towards the common goal- the team remains intact.

It is widely being accepted that in the contemporary world of work, it is collaboration and not competition that is key to thriving, as we have talked about in one of our earlier articles. And to collaborate effectively, a shared sense of purpose, and a willingness ‘to learn and let others learn’ are some pointers to keep in mind. 

Working around the Mental Roadblocks

You have been brainstorming since many days now. The days seem to be blending into each other, but there is no solution in sight. It’s like we have hit a roadblock.

This could be a situation that one can apply professionally; we could very well be talking about an agenda that seems to be lying tangled since days. We could be talking about the struggle to come up with a solution that doesn’t upset any client nor the fortunes of the company.

The more you are thinking about the problem, the more you are dreading about it.

Does this not sound familiar? This is something that a newbie or a fresher might face early in their careers, when the task feels daunting; or an experienced, high-level manager might feel, when the task feels a doomed one from the start.

Problems are everywhere. Ideas and solutions are elusive. There are some problems, faced at various levels of experience, which have a simple solution. They say a task well begun is half done. But for that to happen, the very basic, essential, important and simple secret is to just begin.

At some point, the incessant use of post-it notes to chart out plans, the flowcharts and the brainstorming sessions about the task need an antidote; that is, to stop thinking about the task but actually start working on it.

The Flipside of Experience:

Often, it is not a lack of competence or a lack of skillset that stops us from finding solutions. It is often the opposite: it’s the abundance of experience. No, we are serious!

When we are used to working at a company, or when we have occupied a position for a long term, the flipside of experience comes in- we start thinking in boxes.

We get much too familiar with the problems, and their solutions. We also get much too familiar with problems and their lack of solutions. In our long tenures, we might have realised that when a task has been approached, since years, say, through X method, it doesn’t work out.

We simply give up on the task, assuming that since it has been unsuccessfully approached through method X in all these years, it is a doomed one.

But we forget that maybe, just maybe, trying a method Y could give us the solution we were looking for. The key lies in starting with a method Y, and noting where it leads one to. Often, the catch lies in not really finding a complex solution, but actually starting with a different solution, even a simple one.

Conquering the Newbie Fear:

Often, it is not the inability to finish, or a lack of a skillset that becomes a roadblock to a task. It is often the anticipation of failure.

We wonder if we are qualified enough to get this task done. We stare at the pile of papers and files, and we wonder how long will it take us to get this done.

Again, the simple key is to just start.  

Like magic, as you get to work, you shall find some ways to conquer by focusing on a short term goal within that huge task.

You might realise that goal is not working, and so you shall refocus the goal to make it more achievable and realistic. And like magic, you shall find the ifs, buts and what ifs on your way, and you shall also find your ways around them.

The magic happens when we start. It could be starting with a new solution, never tried before, or it could be starting on a task, no matter how daunting it is, and no matter how unqualified you feel.

While this is not to say that by getting up and starting to work you shall always find that solution. The process might work or it might not yield as much as you thought it would. Moreover, the point is not to stop brainstorming and thinking. And one might question whether brainstorming about the task isn’t the same as working on the task. Brainstorming after a point can become a rejection of ideas. The point is to start working, reroute if necessary, redo if necessary. The point is to jump over the roadblock, be okay with stumbling a little; the point is to not sit staring at the roadblock.

Life at UHR: The Positive Environment

Life@UHR_The Positive Environment - Copy

Workplaces all over the world are trying to make their employees “comfortable” while on their jobs. With the millennial population entering job market, the attempts to appeal the young generation are increasing even more, with various perks and incentives offered.

At United HR, thinking about our employees is not a recent practice. We asked them all what they have to say about working at UHR. Our employees, young and old alike have expressed their admiration for the work environment we offer.

A common complaint many people have regarding their workplace is the “corporate slavery” they are subjected to.

Our employees have a different story to tell. “It is like a second home” tells one employee.

“There is a really friendly atmosphere”, says another. “The office atmosphere is really good”, we find the reflection in the words of yet another employee.

“UHR is a family member” says another. Echoes to the previous statement are found in the opinions of most employees. “United is like family”, says one employee. “It is a good environment to work.”

“There is freedom and a homely environment” says one employee when asked about the positives about life at United HR.

Talking about the positives, “positivity” itself is something that is again listed as a great quality of the work environment we offer.

Many workplaces are notorious for treating freshers almost like second class citizens.

One employee mentions how she started as a one, and how it felt “overwhelming” at first. But  she goes on to say how she later came to learn a lot while on the job. She terms life at UHR as “amazing.”

It is necessary that the young and the more experienced employees share a good rapport, and that there is a certain exchange in terms of learning.

“The team members are supportive and the seniors have helped in enhancing my skills” says an employee while talking about the interpersonal interactions at UHR.

Another employee lauds the “motivational colleagues” they get to work with.

An articulate employee sums up how the vibes and the interactions at United HR are:

“There is a certain team spirit and working with a group of young, enthusiastic people is fun. There is transparency in the environment, knowledge sharing takes place. Moreover, there is a great team of Team Leaders who have been with UHR for so long. It’s a great support. There are ample opportunities to grow if you wish and try.”

Interactions where people don’t hesitate to speak up, where there is a healthy exchange of ideas, where there is scope for knowledge-enhancing conversations and where your colleagues feel like your family, and the office a second home- these are some of the factors that contribute to the positive vibes at United HR.