Collaboration Skills: Definition, List, and Examples

What is workplace collaboration? Collaboration entails working with someone else in order to create or produce something. Successful collaboration includes: a willingness to find solutions to problems, recognizing collaborators' strengths and weaknesses, taking responsibility for mistakes, giving credit to others for contributors, actively listening to other team members' concerns. The image beside this text is a group of people working to assemble a giant puzzle, as tall as a 4 story building.

Image by Jaime Knoth © The Balance 2019

Collaboration is essential in almost all aspects of life and work. Nearly every imaginable job in business today entails at least some joint effort among members of a team working together collaboratively. This makes cooperation an essential skill in most sectors of the professional world.

Building collaboration means building trust. Those most effective at building trust know how to understand a variety of perspectives, manage priorities from everyone in the group, and then decisively meet expectations as a reliable member of a team.

What are Collaboration Skills?

The definition of the word ‘collaboration’ refers to working with someone else in order to create or produce something.

Collaboration skills enable people within an organization (or outside an organization) to engage with each other productively and efficiently.

Successful collaboration requires a cooperative spirit and mutual respect. Employers typically seek employees that function effectively as part of a team and are willing to balance personal achievement with group goals.

In some cases, teams that collaborate include members of the same department coordinating on an ongoing activity. In other situations, interdepartmental teams are assembled to form cross-functional teams tasked with completing special projects within a prescribed period of time.

Elements of Successful Collaboration

The idea of collaboration seems easy enough. Doesn’t it just imply “working together.” But there’s more to it. If you are working with others on a project, take note of these elements of healthy collaboration:

  • Establish clear definitions and agreements on the roles of partners in the collaborative process.
  • Keep communication open within teams, never withholding information necessary to carry out tasks.
  • Reach consensus about goals and methods for completing projects or tasks. Don’t move forward until all members are in agreement.
  • Offer recognition of, and respect for, the contributions of all collaborators. It’s important to give credit where credit is due.
  • Carefully identify obstacles and address problems cooperatively as they occur. Teamwork is essential at all times.
  • Place group goals above personal satisfaction and/or recognition, especially if you are the leader. It’s crucial to put the desired project results at the forefront. Collaboration isn’t about individual goals.
  • Be willing to apologize for missteps and forgive others for mistakes. Holding a grudge or sabotaging the efforts of other team members destroys collaboration.

Types of Collaboration Skills

Communication

Getting your point across is not always as easy as you think. Among individuals that do not take the time to understand one another, misunderstanding is a common distraction from project goals.

Being able to collaborate means paying attention to verbal and nonverbal cues, and then learning how to speak directly to the issue at hand.

You can’t be afraid to share your perspective, and neither can you try to impose your viewpoint on everyone else.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (or EQ) is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after soft skills in the workplace. Those with strong emotional intelligence are able to understand the “hidden” needs of themselves and others.

When a team member is moody and snaps at another team member, those with emotional intelligence are able to surmise that the irritability could be evidence of the moody member’s need for rest or help. Even issues such as laziness or stubbornness are seen by those with emotional intelligence as merely symptoms of a bigger problem that everyone can work together to address.

Respect for Diversity

Economies from multiple continents are beginning to merge. More and more businesses do business with companies overseas. Even within the U.S., more women and minorities are running key roles within an organization. As such, team members that collaborate well are open-minded about all walks of life.

Respect for diversity does not mean that people must let go of their religious beliefs or their own convictions. It does mean, however, that everyone respects each other’s perspectives as being equal. All voices matter, and each team member is sensitive to behaviors or decisions that could be subtle forms of discrimination against a certain group of people.

  • Open Communication
  • Sensitivity to Ethnic and Religious Backgrounds
  • Building and Managing Expectations
  • Facilitating Group Discussion
  • Agreeing on Roles that Capitalize on Individual Strengths
  • Building Consensus
  • Eliciting Viewpoints from Reluctant Team Members

Productivity Software

There is an app or software for nearly every task under the sun. Collaborating effectively doesn’t mean that you must know how to use every kind of productivity software imaginable, but it does mean that you should become familiar with different computer programs that are a good fit for your team.

Some teams work more effectively through digital communication channels only, such as social media, instant messaging, and video conference tools. Other teams work best in close proximity with a big table nearby that everyone can fit around. Often, teams are required to collaborate with some mix of digital and in-person tools.

  • Microsoft Office Suite
  • Email Management
  • Skype
  • GoToMeeting
  • File Sharing
  • Google Docs
  • Instant Messaging
  • Mobile Devices
  • Calendar Invites
  • Asana
  • Slack

More Collaboration Skills

  • Analyzing Problems Without Assigning Blame
  • Assessing the Strengths and Weaknesses of Team Members
  • Brainstorming
  • Compromising
  • Defining Mutually Acceptable Roles
  • Delegation
  • Responding to Constructive Criticism
  • Reliable
  • Identifying Obstacles to Success
  • Time Management
  • Resource Management
  • Leadership
  • Humor
  • Managing Deadlines
  • Assigning Roles
  • Documenting Team Progress
  • Diligence
  • Analytical Skills
  • Emotional Stability
  • Recognizing and Rewarding Group Achievements
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
  • Problem Solving
  • Innovation
  • Organization
  • Problem Sensitivity
  • Mediation

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

Add Relevant Skills to Your Resume: Read the job description carefully. Be sure to include the skills that apply to both yourself and the job you seek.

Highlight Skills in Your Cover Letter: Use some of the skills above in your cover letter and mention a couple of projects where you worked successfully within a team.

Use Skill Words in Your Job Interview: Be prepared to share real-life examples of when you used collaboration skills in order to elevate the effectiveness of a team.