The success of your external collaboration is directly related to your ability to collaborate internally.

You might have heard me say that before. Think about it, if you have difficulties in collaborating internally, what makes you think you will be able to collaborate with external parties successfully? There might be many arguments why the other party is more attractive than your colleagues, colleagues who are bound by the same internal rules, regulations, and measurements as you are. But remember, the grass always looks greener on the other side of the hill!

A collaborative internal culture is essential for external collaboration success. Internal collaboration needs to be supported by the organization at least three layers:

  • On an organizational level
  • On a team level
  • By you

The bad news is that collaboration begins at the bottom; that’s right, collaboration begins with you! However, there is also good news: collaboration is a skill, a skill you can improve. High performance leaders take ownership and for good collaboration you also need to take ownership.

So start with abandoning the blame game: don’t blame others when the collaboration is not going the way you would like it to go. Instead, ask yourself what you can do differently to improve that collaboration. Secondly, use one of the essential cornerstones of good collaboration: communicate frequently and effectively. Make sure that your partner is involved and has all the information that is needed.

On a team level, you are just one of the many stakeholders that are part of the collaboration. To improve team collaboration, you still need to take ownership. In fact, every team member needs to take ownership. For an effective team some barriers often need to be broken down, and some lubricant needs to be added to improve team collaboration.

In my work with teams, I use elements of the work of Patrick Lencioni, Simon Sinek, and Marshall Goldsmith. It forms the basis for a two-day team development workshop. These two days offer a good foundation on which high performing collaborative teams can be build.

At the end of these days, barriers are minimized, team bonding has taken place and you have a clear idea what you can do to improve the team when you are back in your regular work environment. After all, these two days create a foundation, but a foundation alone won’t make a good team. You and your colleagues will need to continue the work when you are back in your regular work environment.

You need to take ownership to make sure that you improve with the team and that you collectively don’t fall back into the way you used to work before. You can set some triggers to remember yourself frequently to improve. It can be as simple as posting a visible reminder with the question:

What can I do differently today to improve my collaboration with others?

Links to some supportive material: