For decades, I have been teaching teamwork to administrative assistants. As you know, teamwork has been a popular topic for decades for all individuals. About five years ago I added collaboration to my teachings. I did this because as I was out in the field conducting administrative training, executives were telling me that their assistants needed to learn about collaboration. So I added an entire full-day workshop on collaboration to my Star Achievement Series®. Here is an excerpt from that workbook. I hope you will take the time to read it because collaboration is different. You need skills in both the teamwork arena and the collaboration arena.
Collaboration brings holistic energy. Instead of working in silos, which seems to be the case for many assistants, seek to work with your administrative peers. Consider working with them as being well-rounded, full, universal, complete, all-inclusive, and whole. Doesn’t that just make you feel better and stronger when you read what is possible? Instead of you trying to figure everything out on your own, wasting precious time and energy, you could be increasing your productivity and experiencing better outcomes. That should motivate you to increase your hope quotient by respecting the diversity of your teammates and leveraging the power of teaming together.
What Is Collaboration? How Is It Different From Teamwork?
Collaboration is about coming together and putting your best ideas into the service of something bigger than yourself.
Dena Plotkin, Psychotherapist and Collaborative Strategist (DenaPlotkin.com) says, “The most important thing in any collaboration is being able to know the perspective, needs, and desires of those you are working with. This is probably one of the main ways that collaboration differs from teamwork. In teamwork, there is the assumption that everyone is on the same page. Everyone is working together and is aware of it. Working together is the goal, and the goal is a result of how well the team works.
The focus of collaboration is the process. The act of collaboration creates and shapes the work that must be done to finish a project to completion. As the work progresses the goal is defined. It is more like a living document: it is dynamic and flexible.”
Here are four key differences between teamwork and collaboration from Lisa Earle McLeod, author of The Triangle of Truth and keynote speaker
Teamwork: Command and control
Collaboration: Creative and flexible
When you’re driving the ball down the line, players stick to their assigned roles. You have to make snap decisions. But, much like the Army, they’re within the context of the job you trained for and the skill drills you’ve been doing for months.
Collaboration requires more flexibility. The person who called the plays yesterday may need to fall back and take direction from the person who’s been sitting on the bench, observing the action and formulating a strategy. Collaboration is about bringing unique skills and talents together in a flexible way that supports the task at hand.
Teamwork: Regulation playbook
Collaboration: Evolves over time
Teamwork is successful when everyone knows the rules of the game and the competition adheres to the same regulations. But when the game is constantly changing, you need the ability to adapt your formation. Collaboration allows you to change your structure to support the situation, which is often in flux.
Teamwork: Do what the coach tells you to
Collaboration: Figure out what needs to be done
Teams operate in a hierarchical structure. The coach is in charge, and the reporting structure is from the top down. Collaboration is more fluid. The coach may not even be in the same location as the players, and they may or may not understand all the positions. True collaborators require support, but they’re self-directed in their problem solving and creativity.
Teamwork: Crush your opponent
Collaboration: Contribute to the big picture
Sports teams want the other guys to feel some pain. You either win or you lose. This mentality explains why so many companies struggle to get their employees to share ideas and resources. The win/lose mindset doesn’t easily turn itself off when you’re dealing with co-workers.