7 hacks to collaborate better and advance your career

Top performers in any firm are not necessarily the longest-tenured or most-qualified.

Usually, their uncanny ability to sidestep obstacles, leverage professional relationships and exceed expectations is not the result of devoted training, specialized education or unfair privilege. In fact, the most surprising success stories come from individuals who’ve utilized non-traditional methods for problem-solving to achieve greater goals faster.

To be better at your job, here are seven tricks that will dramatically improve the way you accomplish objectives, communicate and, ultimately, succeed.

“Delegate less, negotiate more”

Effective teamwork doesn’t stem from dictatorships; it is the result of smart leadership and careful collaboration, in which everyone gets what they want.

“Instead of delegating, as in requesting a specific task be done by a specific date, try requesting an outcome and negotiating the parameters that define mutual success and satisfaction,” advises Susan Mazza, CEO of Clarus Consulting Group. “The key here is that the more you give people the opportunity to negotiate, the more often you will activate the ultimate source of true ownership – choice.”

Document your workflows

The best employees know how to pass their roles onto others and avoid becoming the only person able to fulfill certain duties. “Nothing will pigeonhole you more than to be ‘indispensable’ in your current position,” warns Melissa Gratias, Ph.D., owner and principal consultant of MBG Organizing Solutions.

To reduce your company’s dependence on you and to enable you to further advance your skills in different areas, Gratias recommends, “Develop standard operating procedures and training manuals that can be used by others – most likely your successors.” An enlightening outcome of documenting your processes: you can then audit how you work to find inefficiencies and build better workflows.

Embrace automation

Workers often get stuck performing repetitive tasks, over and over again. This hinders an employee’s professional growth and can be demoralizing. Of course, the smartest professionals know when it is time to automate.

Jennifer Smith, founder and curator at The Sevenology, says, “If done right, you can work a lot faster and smarter with less effort. There are so many tricks out there now for automation that it’s almost like you have your own personal assistant.” This is especially useful for those of us who can’t quite afford an actual assistant.

Find face-time

Smith also urges to “get out from behind your desk.”

A bit of face-time is guaranteed to go a long way when partnering with colleagues, clients and vendors. Whenever possible, you should “work with your counterparts. Put a face to the name in their inbox. This small step shows great initiative and passion for your work and it sets foundations for team building and progressing on projects as a unit.” Best of all, you may even enjoy their company, too.

Scale meaningful skills

With practice, we generally become better at what we do. That said, Len Glick, management and organizational development professor at Northeastern University, suggests we should regularly ask ourselves, “What value does this add?”

Avoid spinning your wheels and do not develop skills that may have little or no impact on your effectiveness or productivity. According to Glick, “Most organizations do a lot of things that may have been important at some time but have gone unquestioned for years and are no longer needed.” It is crucial to regularly challenge the status quo and consider, “Why do we need this (process, report, meeting, etc.)? What are the consequences of not doing this?” The answers may surprise you.

“Storytell, don’t sell”

Data can help you build a case for select initiatives, but stories and metaphors seal the deal.

Connie Williams, Synecticsworld’s chief knowledge officer and CMO, knows this well. “A story paints a picture in people’s heads, communicating visually and engaging both sides of the brain,” she says. “If you are in business, you obviously need to work with data effectively, but if you can add the impact of story or illustrate something metaphorically, you’ll be miles ahead of the competition.”

A relatable narrative helps an audience make sense of your message. And if your arguments are rock-solid, you’ll generate far more support from your managers and team members.

Watch your mouth

Before voicing your opinion, take some time to package its delivery. Consider utilizing “problem solving language,” says Williams of Synecticsworld. Problem solving language is, effectively, actionable and constructive criticism. Instead of directly attacking “an imperfect but promising idea,” Williams hopes a heightened sense of self-awareness will make you inclined to collectively improve the suggestion.

Once you skew towards optimism, you’ll find that problem-solving is less confrontational and more collaborative.

By putting all of these tips into practice, you may boost team productivity and performance, while accelerating your own professional growth – all via subtle yet significant upgrades to your behavior.

Post by Danny Wong

Danny Wong is an entrepreneur, marketer, and writer. He is the co-founder of Blank Label (an award winning menswear company focusing on luxury made-to-measure garments) and does marketing at Grapevine (a platform that drives eCommerce, helping retailers partner with YouTube celebrities). Tweet him @dannywong1190