Think of what you do at work every day. Next, think about all the interactions you have at work over the course of each day or week—with your colleagues, bosses, direct reports, customers. Now imagine that all these people you interact with, whether you’re a senior executive or a sole contributor, suddenly just disappeared. It’s just you, doing your work.
Unless you have a very unusual situation, you quickly realize that your work actually depends upon other people. What you’re doing must align with your corporate strategy, with what your teammates are doing, while also satisfying your boss, your company’s customers…and of course, your own needs and wishes.
You have to speak and listen to these people, solve problems with them and make and keep promises to them. If you work in an organization, you collaborate with other people.
Whether it’s raising the next round of funding, hitting your revenue targets, developing a new app, designing new services, or managing customer relationships, your success depends upon how well you collaborate with other people. It doesn’t matter that increasingly, those other people are likely to have very different backgrounds, skills, interests and ways of being in the world—you still have to learn to collaborate with them effectively. And you have to do this day in and day out, whether you like them, respect them, want to work with them or not. Easier said than done.
There are plenty of strategies for getting your immediate needs met through other people at work, but many of them are short-sighted. They may work in this meeting or on that project, but they’re not sustainable—they don’t harness the different perspectives and commitments of your colleagues. They don’t build the trust that allows you to continue to be successful with your colleagues over the long term.
In contrast, when you collaborate effectively—what I call Full Contact Performance, the benefits go way beyond the immediate transaction. They include stronger trust, more flexible and creative thinking, and renewed commitment to collective outcomes. This type of collaboration is also more fun: people look forward to meetings rather than dread them.
As you become better at making Full Contact with your colleagues, the specifics of who you collaborate with also become less important. You realize that good collaboration is not all about them, but more about your own thinking and behavior. Even very challenging collaborations and relationships have a better chance of success when you learn to make Full Contact.