How collaboration pros learned to set their egos aside

Relations between marketing and sales are sometimes strained. Brand partnerships sometimes deteriorate after a heated argument. Vendor arrangements can fall apart, too, at the slightest offense. And despite good intentions, some messages can be misinterpreted as insult.

Many times, the catalyst of a ruined work relationship is a bruised ego. Professionals that make every effort to protect their pride often find themselves operating as lone rangers. But as business evolves, workers find it increasingly necessary to lean on peers in order to stay competitive and accomplish anything meaningful. Those who appreciate the power of teamwork set aside their egos to more effectively collaborate with coworkers and third parties to win.

Below are three strategies you can employ to improve your professional relationships and help grow your organization’s bottom line.

Ask questions

Throughout her work with more than 100 companies, public relations consultant Julia Angelen Joy of Z Group PR has learned the easiest way to humble oneself is by asking questions to dispel the assumption that you already know everything.

“People stop sharing important information, thoughts, experiences and feedback if they sense that they will simply be shut down, put down or ignored,” Joy says. “The key to a thriving organizational culture is communication, and when the wall is up (even if it is presented in a funny, jovial personality), communication grinds to a halt.”

Of course, to be a productive listener, one must avoid responding with discouraging remarks. Edward Hess, a professor of management at the University of Virginia advises professionals to stop interrupting their peers, suspend judgment and delay advocating their views until after they’ve fully understood and processed thoughts shared by other parties.

This is especially important when interacting with clients and vendors, as they’ll have their own set of priorities and values. Mutual understanding is critical.

Champion mutual wins

In business, there does not always have to be a loser. Sadly, some professionals enjoy demonstrating their dominance over others. But doing so can have unintended consequences.

Workplace strategist Laurie D. Battaglia recalls an anecdote from a past client engagement. “One of the senior leaders…had a team where her two primary leaders could not get along,” she says. “They chose sides, and they took their management teams with them. Both of them were determined to ‘win’ on a daily basis. People were thrown under the bus in meetings, reports were sabotaged, and more. Things got so ugly that eventually one of them left for greener pastures and the other one was moved to a different role.”

The tension didn’t end there. “Even later, the people left behind found it difficult to get along and let bygones be bygones,” Battaglia says. “Ultimately, many of them moved around so they didn’t have to deal with each other and they started over in other departments. Some of them suffered from their reputations preceding them, and their landing was more difficult that it would have been had they not engaged in the conflict. All this was caused by two people with large egos that wanted to fight to the finish.”

Within organizations, leaders and workers should remember that their own success is contingent on how happy and productive their peers are. By championing mutual wins, you foster a collaborative environment in which one person’s accomplishment does not come at the cost of another person’s failure.

Practice radical acceptance

When a person is wrong, he or she may instinctively become defensive. Many of us would like to believe we know more than we do; this can lead to denial, frustration and even anger. In its place, psychologists advise to practice radical acceptance. Instead of rejecting the situation outright, embrace it and be mindful of the fact that the world isn’t crumbling.

Donna M. Lubrano, an adjunct marketing, communications and international business professor at Northeastern University, explains, “Each of us is endowed with an ego. We could not move forward, have self-esteem or improve our lives without it. It becomes problematic when we use it to diminish others or more importantly, it tricks us into believing that we are omnipotent and don’t have anything to gain from others experience or expertise. People with healthy egos understand and are confident in themselves and can experience the value others bring to the table.”

When professionals learn to accept the facts as they are, they begin to form more cooperative relationships with the people around them. Fewer conversations turn into fights and more interactions help–rather than hinder–progress.

“The current business climate is too complex for any single individual to dominate. We all need advisors, mentors. No woman/man is an island,” says Lubrano. “The more secure your ego, the more you are able to recognize and harness great talent. When you appreciate and encourage others’ talents, they work harder, are more productive and move the company and project forward. It’s a fact of organizational behavior and development.”

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