What on Earth Does it Mean to Collaborate? Questions to Help You and The Team Get That Clarity.

It’s a curious thing to observe how often we use the word collaboration, isn’t it? But then, what do we really mean by that?

Does it mean that everyone has an opinion, and the final decision on the direction is made by a majority vote? Does it mean that the reason you’re in the room and at the table is because you have something to offer? And if that’s true, how do we know what that is?

To collaborate means to work together on a project or task, but why are we collaborating in the first place? Alan Schaefer, President of Banding People Together, would say that talking about collaboration, this idea of working together, needs to happen for a team to be productive. It’s not enough to tell people to simply go and work together on a project. 1

Therefore, it’s vitally important for the team to sit down and answer the following questions. You can hand out a piece of paper or ask them to open their notebook (electronic or paper), and each person can start by answering the first question listed below.

  • What does collaboration mean to you? (Each person, without discussing aloud, write down their answer. Then share your answer with the group.)
  • What does collaboration mean for this team? (Discuss your answers and come to an agreement on what it means.)
  • What does successful collaboration look like to you? To us? (Discuss your answers.)
  • How will we celebrate our success as a team? (Discuss your answers.)

Make sure to make notes of your agreed-upon answers, revisiting and reminding yourselves of why you’re working together, what success looks like, and how you’ll celebrate when you achieve it.

Start with the above-mentioned questions and then watch how much better and further the team can go because you together got clear on what collaboration means for you as a team. Clarity leads to productivity.

Carmen, MALM

  1. Alan Schaefer, How Collaborative Insanity Stalls Change. Leadercast Now (accessed October 14, 2019).