Friday, July 31, 2015

What it means to collaborate

Collaboration is a buzzword. This is a good thing, but difficult when we're so conditioned to doing what ever it takes to climb social and corporate ladders in our careers. In order to do this, we have to compete and distinguish ourselves, often at the expense of our coworkers. Our personal interests are in direct conflict with collaborating well with others. What if somebody's idea is picked over mine? What if somebody else gets the promotion? What if the team I'm collaborating with has lazy, unproductive members? What if people expect me to carry them and I end up doing all their work? How will I get proper credit? How will I distinguish myself?

Those are the mental gymnastics I go through.

I looked up a couple of a couple definitions:
  • col·lab·o·rate: work jointly on an activity, especially to produce or create something. 
synonyms: co-operate, join forces, team up, band together, work together, participate, combine, ally;

I noticed that the word "co-labor" is embedded in the word "collaborate".

Here's another definition:
  • dis·tin·guish: recognize or treat (someone or something) as different.
synonyms: differentiate, tell apart, discriminate between, tell the difference between

This describes me better the "collaborate" does. Distinguish has always been my instinct. I want to distinguish me from you. I want everyone to know that I'm better than you. I want them, especially the bosses, to know that I'm smarter, more creative, and more innovative. I've noticed that when people see this in me—and they do because no matter how hard I try, I can't hide these attitudes—they are not very motivated to collaborate with me and the only reason they do is because someone higher up the food chain makes them. But there's a short shelf-life on these attitudes if collaboration is becoming your culture. You'll only be able to fake it for so long before you're the one left standing without a chair when the music stops.

If you want to distinguish yourself, distinguish yourself by being known as the guy or gal most willing to collaborate with others. Empower people, give decision making authority away, celebrate the accomplishments and ideas of others. Be the problem solver in the group. Be the one who gets those random, impossible ideas executed. Celebrate the accomplishments of others rather than yourself. How refreshing would that be? How great would it be to work with you?

Go be awesome.

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