The Power of Purposeful Collaboration

Career Blog

Closeup concept of business people brainstorming.Bearded man talking with account director and creative manager to finding great work solution.Horizontal, blurred backgroundCollaboration takes work. Whether you need to walk across the hall or call around the world, stopping your activity to conduct research, investigate complimentary projects, or even ask for input can seem a painful proposition when customers are demanding results … yesterday.

It’s no wonder that collaboration shares a similar fate to most New Year’s Resolutions. (Remember those?) Like working out, losing weight or writing that novel, collaboration is often a “nice idea” whose time never comes.

Overcoming the Collaboration Hurdle

If you struggle with how, why, and when to collaborate, you’re not alone. According to Gartner (formerly Corporate Executive Board – CEB) the problem persists in many organizations. While technology, process, and structural elements can often play a role in its absence, a CEB study notes that a “lack of a clear and distinct need for collaboration” is a primary factor. The study indicates that collaboration on key projects is achieved when the following factors are reviewed at the start of an initiative:

  • Return: What actual benefits can be obtained from collaboration?
  • Collaboration Costs: What costs will we incur (time, effort, capital) due to required cross department work / communication?
  • Opportunity Costs: What costs will we incur (time, effort, capital) if we pursue a collaborative project vs. one that does not require such investment?
  • Risk: What potential pitfalls / costs will we face if we opt for a non-collaborative approach?

Once you develop a defendable reason for purposeful collaboration you are more likely to earn senior level support and stakeholder participation. 

Positive Habits

Not every endeavor requires a project level analysis. Often times the most effective collaboration springs from habitual, moment-to-moment actions that keep us connected. Ensure you operate with positive intent by following these simple guidelines:

  • Ask Before You Build: Resist the temptation to design from scratch. Chances are the item in question has been requested before. This time-saver will either score you a template or build buy-in for a legitimately novel service that can be shared once constructed.
  • Communicate With Purpose: Formal communication cascades don’t always hit the mark. Be it a business line announcement or a new Center of Excellence offering, share pertinent information with colleagues.
  • Act as One Team: Get wind of a complaint? Don’t commiserate. Own it. Investigate. And then pass along the feedback to the process owner. Your insight could spark a collaborative process improvement.
  • Celebrate Success: Get in the habit of passing along positive feedback. Remember, teams win together. Failure…well, that’s often a lonesome activity.

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