Collaboration is the coming together where individuals pool their resources and talents to cooperate instrumentally with one another to produce an end result, task or project. It’s also when people freak out, throw each other under the bus and ignite a happy dream and vision on fire on a turn of a dime.
With the help of Sonya Dove, we have five ways you can stay calm during a collaboration process with others.
We’re All Different
“Always remember that we are all individuals and that no two people are alike,” says Sonya. “We all have our own opinions and there is no wrong or right.”
It’s true. We all have different wants and needs, and different ideas, expectations, and personalities. When collaborating, it’s imperative you remember that personalities may mesh and gel with each other, and potentially clash and collide. This can make collaborating a bit difficult and stressful, but not if you have an understanding of personality types and what each type requires.
The most popular theory in psychology these days is there are five broad dimensions of a person’s personality commonly referred to as, “The Big 5.” We touched on this in our article, What Defines Your Personality article. To recap, these five dimensions are extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness. Each one of these dimensions serves as building blocks of our personality and when they are combined with each other, they form our individual set of emotional qualities. Essentially, it is the formula and recipe that makes us unique and different from each other. Here’s a closer look at the dimensions according to verywell.com:
Extraversion is characterized by excitability, sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness and high amounts of emotional expressiveness. People who are high in extroversion are outgoing and tend to gain energy in social situations. People who are low in extroversion (or introverted) tend to be more reserved and have to expend energy in social settings.
Agreeableness includes attributes such as trust, altruism, kindness, affection and other prosocial behaviors. People who are high in agreeableness tend to be more cooperative while those low in this trait tend to be more competitive and even manipulative.
Conscientiousness includes high levels of thoughtfulness, with good impulse control and goal-directed behaviors. Those high on conscientiousness tend to be organized and mindful of details.
Neuroticism is a trait characterized by sadness, moodiness, and emotional instability. Individuals who are high in this trait tend to experience mood swings, anxiety, moodiness, irritability and sadness. Those low in this trait tend to be more stable and emotionally resilient.
Openness features characteristics such as imagination and insight, and those high in this trait also tend to have a broad range of interests. People who are high in this trait tend to be more adventurous and creative. People low in this trait are often much more traditional and may struggle with abstract thinking. It is important to note that each of the five personality factors represents a range between two extremes.
For example, extraversion represents a continuum between extreme extraversion and extreme introversion. In the real world, most people lie somewhere in between the two polar ends of each dimension.
You may be reading all these traits and saying to yourself, “I’m a little introverted and completely open and kind,” which is all fine and dandy, but that could be a problem if the person you’re working on a project with is extremely extroverted, and someone who experiences moodiness, irritability and someone who struggles with abstract thinking. You two may conflict with each other from the get-go. And you may not, but if you do, remember, it’s because we’re all different. Some of us are workhorses while others are racehorses. We’re a bunch of extroverts and introverts working together with various levels of emotional needs, and that’s all okay.
May I Have This Dance?
“A good collaboration is similar to a tango dance,” says Sonya. “Being able to give a little now and again to make sure the other person is left empowered.” This holds true for those moments when people aren’t seeing eye-to-eye on a matter or decision. Meeting halfway is often the best route to take. This “dance” also applies to making sure that everyone involved in the collaborative group has their moment to do what they do best and get the recognition when it is rightfully deserved.
Another “dance” that must occur during this is the dance of communicating with one another. As we mentioned in our What’s Your Communication Type article, successful communication depends on someone sharing information and someone else that not only gets the message but is able to effectively interpret it. All of us have our own way of communicating and once we have an understanding of the four different styles and types, the likelihood of miscommunication, the root of all evil during collaboration, is decreased. Let’s take a moment to explore those four types:
- (Interpersonal) The Relator: The Relator is a strong, interpersonal “open” communicator. Those who fall into this category generally have an easy time expressing their thoughts and feelings and tend to be extremely relationship oriented. While they are typically warm, friendly and good listeners, Relators are also very security conscious and tend to keep their relationship at more of an arms-length.
- (Affective) The Socializer: Also considered an open communication type, the socializer is fast-paced, slightly aggressive, enthusiastic and persuasive. They have a high view of their own self-worth and prefer to work with others, rather than be alone. Socializers also tend to be frequent risk-takers.
- (Cognitive) The Thinker: This closed communication type is highly analytical, cautious and tends to be task-oriented. They can take a long time to warm up to others and reveal information about themselves. They work well alone and have an easy time following directions. Thinkers tend to fall on the perfectionist side and are usually very efficient.
- (Behavioral) The Director: Both aggressive and competitive, the Director is a closed communication style that favors results over other’s personal impact. Directors are fast-paced, decisive and are often viewed as being domineering. They have a difficult time sharing their feelings and little concern for personal relationships.
A Clear Vision
“Always try to use pictures in a creative collaboration as it is clearer and causes less confusion for all those involved,” she adds. The best way to keep all these pictures organized and keep the collaboration process flowing in a clear and positive direction is via mood boards. These “boards” can be physical in nature adorned with tear sheets or live in the virtual world on Pinterest or Matboard or through apps like Moodboard.
Mood boards are also an effective method of communicating when multiple people of various departments are involved in a single project. Take for instance the Virtuality collection from Lisa Muscat Vitale. This collection involved more than just hair, makeup, styling and a photographer. She also looped in a creative director (Robert Lobetta), an actual artist (Blair Palmer) and another individual for post-production (Kay Lobetta). You can see by her mood boards below how they helped bring the collection to life.
Strengths & Weaknesses
Being transparent about what you’re good at and what your limitations are should be the very first thing discussed before you even think about starting the creative conversation. Get it all out in the open. If you’re really great at being a project manager and keeping the project on its course but are the worst when it comes to finding clothes or a stylist for the shoot, then say it and say it proudly. No one is going to judge, but they will when you try being something and someone you’re really not.
A great rule to follow when kicking off the collaboration is to:
#1 – State why you’re all here and determine the end goal.
#2 – Establish a deadline.
#3 – Discuss strengths and weaknesses.
#4 – Assign roles.
“By letting each person focus on their strengths, the outcome will be far better,” suggests Sonya.
Why So Serious
Remember the moment in The Shining when Wendy Torrance discovers that her husband Jack abandoned his novel and spent his days typing the sentence, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” over and over again? It was pretty alarming to say the very least. This proverb is one that rings true throughout our individual lives, but also during collaboration. “Have fun and do not take anything too seriously,” adds Sonya. “Look at it as creative support and the same way air needs fire, fire needs earth and earth needs water. There is strength in support and collaboration. Also, make time to have social time together and get to know each other team member.”
Sonya also shared in her Creative Thinking: The Little Things Matter article the following: “Being a creative can be intimidating. As you advance in your career, you find yourself surrounded by like-minded and talented fellow artists. While this can be a wonderful inspiration and can help you learn new ways of approaching an issue or take an idea in a direction that you hadn’t previously thought of, it can also lend itself to unrealistically comparing your skills, talents, and methods to your fellow artists. It is important to remember that while you may all have the same creative outlet, your methods of expression will be completely different and that’s what makes this such a fascinating industry to be a part of.”
Photo Courtesy: @thedovesbydna via Instagram