As human beings, we want to be seen, heard, and appreciated. Yet, we all experience interactions differently and bring with us various motivations, inherent biases, and conditioned behavior.

Because of this, when we work with others—by choice or when told—we cannot assume that what we need or want is the same as our colleagues. Collaboration necessitates jointly reviewing topics to minimize confusion or mixed messages.

Cultivate meaningful dialogue to learn and discern.

Most conversations just happen, and depending on your level of engagement, your input can range from casual reactionary comments to more thoughtful responses. When you’re present—in mind, body, and heart—you can actively listen to help foster camaraderie.

Additionally, encouraging and exhibiting courageous communication where you don’t need to “cover up” can inspire deeper exchanges and connections. When people express their ideas or feelings, stay alert to what’s being said and confirm what you hear, welcoming clarification or correction. Then, as applicable, share your perspective, highlighting commonalities and aiming for compromise where there are variances in preferences.

Honor what matters most to cultivate a strong partnership.

Trust is developed through consistent actions over time. And the only person you have agency over is yourself. That’s why nurturing your self-confidence is crucial. When self-confident, you can trust, acknowledge, and accept all aspects of yourself. Individuals who struggle with low self-esteem tend to be harder on themselves and suffer from “impostor syndrome,” which can surface as criticism, judgment, or projection when interacting with others.

Here are five ways you can foster collaboration and embrace your leadership potential:

Set context and ask questions.

Providing background and purpose at the start of any meeting helps frame and guide the discussion. Establishing common ground around objectives, preferences, and working styles is helpful when partnering with others. You can ask questions like, “What is most important to you when working with others?” and “What are your preferences in terms of meeting and scheduling reviews?” and “How do you define success for this work together?” Then, before closing out, summarize and confirm actions and next steps with who owns what. You can start with, “What do you see as our next steps?”

Discuss communication cadence.

Think of the 5W’s—Who, What, When, Where, and Why—to establish your communication rhythm and non-negotiables. Most people hate “surprises” regarding deliverables, and honesty and transparency are usually at the top of people’s lists. Recognize that your approach—what makes you comfortable regarding timeframes and what you value—may differ, so documenting the decisions made will be useful for all parties as guideposts.

Watch for your personal agenda.

To remain agile and relevant, consider your main messages and the stakeholders involved. If what you’re saying isn’t being received as intended, that’s a gentle reminder that your content must be applicable to make sense for someone else. Further, you may be too tied to your perspective if you must continually push. Also, if you catch yourself talking and talking, think of the “W.A.I.T” acronym, which stands for “Why am I talking?” to pause and allow the other person to speak. Lastly, the word “should” is a sign of passing judgment.

Ground yourself and take breaks.

Create space throughout your day to breathe, organize, strategize, and recalibrate before entering another meeting or chat. This will enable you to focus on those you’re with and the established goals and shared purpose instead of your to-do list, ruminating thoughts, or negative energy you may have experienced from other interactions. Also, removing desk clutter and closing out applications, such as email, text, or newsfeeds, is helpful for being present.

Express appreciation.

No matter the size of the project, reflecting on the progress, success, and lessons learned gives you a reason to celebrate your accomplishments and recognize others for their contributions. During key milestones, you can converse about what’s working well or needs to be modified as you move forward. To display gratitude, here are some simple steps to say thanks. Respecting others and confirming that their efforts are noticeable goes a long way in building trust.

Effective collaborations are rewarding.

Mutually beneficial relationships start with how you show up. There are many essential elements like being reliable, considering what’s vital to someone else and delivering on it or meeting them halfway, communicating often with positive intention, and fulfilling your commitments. Equally critical is handling conflict constructively and realigning as needed, which means not hiding behind a text or email. And the great news is you can boost your emotional intelligence skills with awareness, concentration, and practice.

Deepen your perspective to activate your best.

As a lifelong student, certified professional coach, and consultant, activating the best in others through self-leadership, interpersonal relations, and team dynamics are passions of mine. My approach is personalized and customized, tapping into various assessments, disciplines, modalities, and techniques. To learn more, schedule a call with me.

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