7 Traits of Great Collaborators

Results don’t happen on their own, and you can’t do everything yourself. You have to collaborate; with insiders and outsiders. And mastering this unique skill in a world of work that is becoming more remote is essential. Think about people with whom you collaborate a lot, what makes them great? Why do you keep coming back to them? What is it that you enjoy about collaborating with them? I know this is an open ended question, and subjective to people’s own preference but let’s give this a shot.

I’ll use my “internet collaborators” as an example. Since I logged on Twitter for the first time in 2008, I’ve met many people who have become friends and collaborators. Most of these people are not in the same city, state, country as I am; yet we’ve collaborated over email, skype, slack, or any other collaboration platform.

What Makes a Great Collaborator?

For me, the people with whom I collaborate the most have these traits, which I believe are the qualities that make a great collaborator:

  1. High agency (attitude). High Agency is about finding a way to get what you want, without waiting for conditions to be perfect or otherwise blaming the circumstances. High Agency people either push through in the face of adverse conditions or manage to reverse the adverse conditions to achieve goals. Another way to look at this is having a growth mindset.
  2. Learn-it-all. People who are curious, who are eager to learn, who like challenges. Those are the people I want to be around. The future belongs to the learn-it-all’s; that is all.
  3. Team player. Basically, I want to surround myself with people who are all about the “we”, not “me”. People who have the best interest of the team, who are not driven by an individual agenda.
  4. Open mind. We’re not going to agree on everything, which makes being open minded important because we’re all going to wrong if we can’t be open to other people’s ideas.
  5. Follow through. It goes without saying that it all starts with trust. Part of creating that trust is doing what you said you were going to do. That’s it.
  6. Good listener. People like to be heard, and know their ideas and thoughts are being taken into consideration. In fact, that’s a key element of collaboration. If you want to be regarded as an effective collaborator, you need to ensure you’re listening to those you collaborate with and making changes when it makes sense based on their feedback.
  7. Makes work fun. When people enjoy the work they are doing, it’s not work. Working hard is really just having fun.

The list could be longer and could include authenticity, transparency, kindness, trustworthy and many other traits that could also be included in a “how to be a great person” list. Being a good person is a prerequisite to do anything; so that’s why I don’t mention them in the list above. Also, none of the above mentions skills. A collaborator or collaborator’s skillset is also a prerequisite to be effective at ones job; so I didn’t mention it in the list.

In addition to the list above, I also ask myself a few questions about my collaborators:

  • Can I admire this person?
  • Can I learn from this person?
  • Will I become better at X because of this person?

And that is how I round this out.

What about you, what traits make a great collaborator?


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