“I can do things you cannot; You can do things I cannot; Together we can do great things.” -Mother Teresa

The first reported case of SARS originated in China in November 2002. It spread rapidly and by the following year, over 8,000 people were infected in 26 countries and over 800 deaths were reported. The global commitment to fighting SARS peaked when 11 laboratories in 9 countries were mobilised into a multidisciplinary, global, connected team serving one joint goal: to identify and eradicate the SARS virus. Within one month of that collaboration, the Corona virus was identified, and a resulting global health campaign…

So why am I telling you this?

We know that collaboration can take many forms. It can occur on a macro scale, where we can see collaboration across geographies, disciplines and political boundaries resulting in saving lives. It can be on a micro scale such as two people sharing ideas or resources of common interest. It can occur within small teams in organisations and across international corporate landscapes.

Research tells us that we are in fact wired for collaboration and connection. One chemical that draws us together is called oxytocin – the feeling of friendship, love or deep trust. Simon Sinek, author of Leaders Eat Last, refers to the chemical Oxytocin as the ‘collaboration chemical’ – the primeval force in our brains that compels us to join forces, which confirms we are naturally meant to work together.

What we also know is that some of us are more energised by collaboration than others. In our work we define the strength of collaboration as being about “working cooperatively with others to work towards common goals.”

Our tool Strengthscope® actually measures 24 work based strengths and the extent to whether collaboration is an underlying quality that energises you and if it is one of your significant 7 strengths.

People who have this as one of their significant strengths like to maintain cooperative working relations across organisational boundaries and silos, which could be geographical, departmental or team-based. They like to find common ground between parties which may appear to have different agendas, objectives or drivers. They have a way of weaving common threads across these stakeholders that unites them together. Typically, those with a collaborative strength want to promote a friendly, collaborative, united environment in teams and organisations. They love partnership, cooperation and unity and they thrive in the participation of the collective effort.

Here is what it can sound like when it shows up effectively in a workplace setting:

“I get a lot of my energy from working with other people. I feel more motivated when I am working with others, across different disciplines, and departments…. I love sharing ideas and seeing other perspectives. I work harder and longer when I am working in a busy team….more is achieved when we work collaboratively towards that common outcome for the patient.”
“There are a lot of people that work really hard together everyday. We have to push each other, depend on each other… it’s like being in a family… there is a “tightness” that those working in the Monday to Friday world probably can’t imagine…”

If this sounds like you, you may want to consider ways that you can play to this strength further.

Where are there opportunities to collaborate further in your role?

What opportunities are there for you to get involved in building partnerships across working groups and organisational boundaries particularly where ‘silo’ mindsets prevail or where inter-group relations are not ideal?

In what ways can you use your strength to promote a team where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts?

How can you create a climate where participative decision-making is the norm?

Where are there pockets of successful collaboration already? How can you leverage these?

What are the perceived barriers to collaboration? What steps can be made to work around these?

According to Simon Sinek, the best organisations foster trust and collaboration because their leaders build what he calls a Circle of Safety. When we know and trust that the people inside the Circle of Safety will look out for us and protect us from the dangers of the outside, we’re more likely to freely exchange information and ideas that will move the organisation forward. Everyone feels they belong and all energies are devoted to protecting and supporting each other and seizing big opportunities together.

So as a final thought, what conditions could you create to cultivate fertile ground for collaboration to thrive? How could this strength be leveraged and supported for the collective good?

[Tweet “”Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” -Helen Keller”]