When young people come to me for career advice, I always tell them: “Don’t just focus on your accomplishments. Be a collaborator.”
through ten years Teaching and Research At Harvard Business School and Law School, I discovered an important and often overlooked insight: People who know how to work across teams gain a major competitive advantage over those who don’t.
Advantages of Collaborative Skills
Smart collaborators are very popular candidates when it comes to hiring. They deliver higher quality results, get promoted faster, gain more attention from senior management, and have happier clients.
But what struck me most: Collaborative skills are surprisingly rare, especially among men.
2021 McKinsey Research found that women leaders were about twice as likely as men to spend a significant amount of time doing collaborative work outside of formal work, compared to men of the same level.
How to be a great collaborator
Becoming a collaborator is not easy. But the main goal is simple: bring people together to solve problems and learn new things.
Here’s how to do it better:
1. Be an inclusive leader.
Whether you’re a project leader or not, take steps to bring diverse people together.
My mindset has always been: “That person thinks differently than me. They know something different that I don’t, and I can learn a lot from them.”
These people should not just have different areas of knowledge. They should also represent different professional backgrounds, ages and life experiences.
2. Express appreciation and recognition.
A groundbreaking research Professor at Harvard Business School Boris Groysberg It was found that workers, especially men, often took their professional networks for granted.
period job interviewbecause they don’t realize how much support they get from their colleagues, they believe they are more independent and “portable” than they really are.
This “me first” mentality is often a deal breaker—even a turnout—for hiring managers.even Claire Hughes Johnsona former VP at Google for 10 years, said she was looking for Self-Awareness and Collaboration “first.”
3. Ask for help.
If you are responsible for submitting a weekly sales report but do it entirely yourself, it may be a sign that you consider your opinion to be the most valuable.
However, your data points may be more convincing if you seek insights from experts in different departments.
Don’t forget to mention the names of the contributors and their expertise. This will give your report more credibility.
Provide a way for people to learn without having to be part of every team. My research has found that the desire to learn is a common driver of voluntary commitment.
Communities created through Slack and similar messaging tools are a great way to facilitate virtual forms of collaboration, knowledge sharing, and knowledge distribution.
5. Shared data flow.
Scorecards and dashboards are powerful tools for several reasons:
- They allow you to measure progress towards the goals you set.
- When shared openly, they create a sense of peer pressure because they allow the leader’s results to be compared with those produced by their peers.
- They make the inclusion process more transparent by making key information easily accessible.
Consider what data should be shared, when and how. The point is not to hide data, but to make it accessible and usable by a specific audience. A good rule of thumb: err on the side of oversharing.
Heidi K. GardnerPh.D., Distinguished Fellow, Harvard Law School Legal Career Center and project chair Departmental Leadership Masterclass. Previously, she was a professor at Harvard Business School.She is also the co-author of the bestselling book “Smarter Collaboration.” Heidi earned a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and a second PhD degree from the London Business School.follow her Twitter.
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