The traits of a perfect collaborator

Collaboration is typically a happy subject, but things have been a little scary around here lately. In our peek at the 9 types of famous collaborators, we found some Dexters and Walter Whites lurking within your organization. We contemplated the worst coworkers on television in a fun little examination of Game of Thrones and Mad Men. We even identified the top 20 signs that you aren’t a collaborator at all, but, rather, a dreaded collabohater.

Now that we’ve peered into the dark side, let’s step out into the light. It may seem that an ideal collaborator would just need to flip the collabohater list on its head – and, yes, doing the opposite of everything on that list is a good start. But to unlock your potential as the ideal dream collaborator, there are a few other traits you need to embrace.

Be open-minded

You don’t have to compromise your vision, but you have to make peace with not always having the best idea. Regardless of your place on the org chart, keep an open mind when it comes to changing business as usual.

Work on yourself first

“Before I can work on us, I have to work on me.” Romantic relationship cliché? Perhaps. Practical collaboration advice? Absolutely. As we’ve said before when talking about ways to work smarter, there are some basic things you probably already do or know you should do: eat well, sleep well, delegate, organize, etc. That stuff will all help make you a better collaborator. So will being good at your job. Self-improvement in any form – whether restoring work-life balance or taking coursework to build your skill set – will likely improve more than just yourself.

Know your strengths

Forward-thinking businesses are breaking down silos. Agencies are rethinking creative teams in the era of social business. The underlying philosophy is that great ideas may flow from any corner of the office; this is not the same as everyone being equal experts in everything. Allowing non-traditional contributors to the creative process does not mean that everyone would make a great creative director.

Be curious

In writing about the characteristics of the most productive creatives, 99U’s Jocelyn Glei says “A high level of curiosity – the hallmark of an inquiring mind – is typically indicative of other good qualities, such as inventiveness, resourcefulness, and fearlessness. It also tends to ward off boredom and apathy – sentiments that will poison any creative endeavor.” Additionally, curiosity about how your own personal work world fits into the context of your business as a whole – and how your work and work processes impact colleagues in other departments, either directly or indirectly – will score you major collaboration points.

Don’t chase shiny objects

Every business can benefit from reinvention, but realism is also important – as is sticking with decisions and seeing them through. There is a time and a place for rethinking the big picture; if you’re interrupting every brainstorming session or discussion thread with your ideas on how to be more like the Hottest New Startup, you’re going to annoy and disrupt your collaborators. Clients can cause distractions, too; don’t always chase after the shiniest and newest client. As Headscape’s Paul Boag writes, “[Businesses] become so fixated on meeting users needs that they build functionality that is not consistent with their vision for the site. They allow their entire site to go off on a tangent that might not actually benefit to their business.”

Pick your battles

Friction is healthy… to a certain extent. Skeptics are very valuable in a collaborative setting, but if you’re shooting down everything or waging war over minor details, you’ll be branded as a negative force and your objections will become easier to ignore; your collaborators may even start omitting you from the process altogether.

Post by Adam McKibbin

Adam McKibbin is the content marketing manager for iMeet Central. His writing has been featured in Adweek, the Chicago Tribune and The Nation, and he’s produced content for some of the leading tech brands on the Fortune 500.