Want to collaborate at work effectively?
Have this conversation.
Most jobs today are highly collaborative. So, we must work positively with our coworkers to produce exceptional results. The easiest way to confirm we effectively collaborate at work is to initiate a work style check-in, which is simply a chat.
This process can start with our manager or boss, but you should not limit this vital work activity to them. These discussions are extremely helpful and beneficial for anyone you work with frequently.
When you understand how to align your work style with others, you will correctly anticipate their needs, collaborate effectively, and work towards the same goals. It also eliminates unnecessary anxiety and reduces misunderstandings. As the name indicates, these check-ins are a work style or behavior and interaction check-in, not a performance review where we discuss how well we perform our responsibilities.
Communication and work delivery timeframe are two primary areas to focus on during these talks.
As unique individuals, we have communication preferences for working productively. You’ll want to confirm how, when, and what or how much information your coworker needs on various topics.
How – Method
Confirm your colleague’s preferred communication method by topic. Everyone has specific preferences. Some people feel they connect better through live conversations and may say you can call anytime. Others view calling or texting as the best method to discuss problems or other urgent topics only. They view the call or text as an interruption to what they are working on; they like to remain focused if an issue is not urgent. Confirm how your colleagues prefer to communicate about problems or urgent situations, progress or status updates, and non-urgent questions.
- In person
When – Timing
Here, you’ll want to know how frequently you should provide updates. Ask if you should give status updates daily or weekly during project status meetings, one-on-one meetings, or email.
When talking about communication, you can confirm the person’s response expectations. Just because someone sends an email after hours, they may not expect you to respond after hours. Like you, your coworkers need to balance their work and personal responsibilities. Catching up on email after putting kids to bed or attending a class might work best for some. If someone tells you they do not expect you to respond after hours, believe them and don’t feel obligated to respond immediately. Remember, when discussing the best communication methods, you will have confirmed the best way to handle problems or urgent issues. So, if the issue is not urgent, and the person has said they do not expect a response after hours on non-urgent topics, feel comfortable waiting until the next day to respond.
Detail – Level
Confirm you are providing the helpful level of detail based on a topic and timing. For example, a Sales manager may be comfortable with weekly updates on a prospect’s likelihood to buy for most of the month. But as the calendar approaches the end of the month, they may prefer daily updates as they work to confirm if the team will hit their target sales number. The same might be true of a new product or service introduction. As the project starts, longer periods between updates might be okay, but as you get closer to the introduction date, others may need daily updates to decide how to move forward and ensure the defined introduction date is met.
The second topic to discuss during your check-ins is delivery expectations. Given the collaborative nature of work today, others are often waiting for us to meet our deadlines so they can complete their jobs. This interconnectivity leads to collective success or combined failure. When we miss our deadlines, it can create stress or anxiety for our colleagues.
You can measure this check-in topic through questions like, “How can I better help you complete your work on time?” or “What do you think about adding more frequent progress updates to help manage our time?”
As with all feedback, the more specific you are, the more detailed and helpful the input will be. Simply asking, “Are we working well together?” will likely solicit a yes or no response. This question-and-answer outcome will not reveal needed adjustments or opportunities for improvement.
To get started and help the other person put your conversation into context, begin by saying something like, “I want to confirm if I’m communicating and delivering on my responsibilities timely.”
Then start by asking a specific question, such as, “I’m currently texting you with daily work updates. Is that okay, or would you prefer I send them differently and at a different time?”
You can always move beyond these two topics. If you are interested in how others view you or interpret your behaviors at work, you can explore questions like:
“How can I improve demonstrating I am open-minded to the ideas of others?”
“How can I better demonstrate respect for the ideas of others when asking clarifying questions about their ideas?”
“Can you share examples of when I dismissed an idea that was different from mine?”
“How can I better demonstrate respect for others?”
“How should I change my body language when interacting with others?”
“How can I improve how I represent our team in cross-functional meetings?”
“I have a Harmonizer work style and typically chit-chat a bit before jumping into work.
These discussions also offer an opportunity for you to share your unique traits and give permission to others. For example, you might want to offer something like, “Please let me know when you are short on time, and I’ll move on to work topics more quickly.”
Like any conversation, prepare for it and enter it with an open mind. You may hear unexpected feedback. Don’t get defensive. Willingly listen to absorb your coworkers’ perspectives and actively listen to ensure you understand what you are hearing. Accept the feedback as the gift it is, a path to improve.
If you hear unexpected feedback, reflect on it for a few minutes afterward. And appreciate the feedback as a growth and development opportunity. Then develop an improvement game plan and put it into action.
Frequently conducting check-ins will give you feedback on small steps you can take to have a significant, positive impact on building stronger relationships and advancing your career.
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