Collaboration Skills

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Course Description

Collaboration results in the best possible solution to any given issue since all the ideas, solutions, best practices, resources, skills, and issues were examined, discussed, and evaluated using the best possible criterion from a wide spectrum of knowledge, skills, and industry leaders.

This course looks at the collaboration processes, the dynamics within the group to include skills needed, motivational factors, how to manage conflicts that arise, and how to effectively listen to what the other person is trying to say.  Along with listening, for collaboration to happen there must be consensus, which a lesson delves into and shows how it is more than teamwork involved in this systematic technique. Students are taught how to design a process map so a better understanding of all the issues and steps involved are visual and easy to understand, which enables the group to come to a better collaborative answer. With a number of people inevitably there will be differences of opinion so there will be barriers that must be overcome. You will learn the processes and best practices to use when this occurs.

Collaboration takes time but its end result is worth the efforts. Realizing this, this course has a lesson that shows one way to save time in this process is by running an effective meeting and the best techniques to communicate progress. Suggestions are given to keep the meeting to a predetermined time and there are even some great practical tips for getting everyone to the meeting on time. This lesson also covers ways to solve problems and tips for making smart decisions when the choices are tough.

In business circles, collaboration is defined as a "practice where individuals work together for a common purpose, usually to accomplish a business goal." Is that collaboration in its truest sense? Yes and no. Collaboration is more than team work, although team work is vital. And it is true that without collaboration skills, all you have is a group of talented individuals who cannot meet goals, create, or execute a strategic plan. 
But the definition has been convoluted with time and its use. After all, how could you expect everyone to know the definition of "collaboration" when Google registers about 39 million results – that means confusion about the true meaning of the word. For many young executives, the word draws a picture of people sitting around a table having a nice "meeting" about goals that must be met that day and the best way to get everything accomplished. For others, the meaning delves deeper, but at the same time only outlines collaboration's results – it accomplishes what traditional structures of doing business and technology cannot produce. 

Others point to the definition including diversity – diversity in problem solving, ideas, and talents. Still there are those who toss into the definition mix the thoughts of a diversified team working together with the sole purpose to create betterment in the areas of operations, relationships, technology and overall structure.

One misstep in the definition occurs when someone confuses collaboration with innovation. Innovation simply means adding something new to the mix, whether it's a new method, idea, or job skill. This can be a result of collaboration, but it is not the definition – the two are not the same thing.

Even though there are disagreements with the definition and, at times, difficulties, most business leaders tend to agree that bad collaboration is worse than no collaboration, since it wastes resources and produces shoddy results, at best.
Look at the 2008 and 2012 Dream Team that went to the Olympics. Unlike the original 1992 dream team that dominated the courts, the latest group of NBA stars found it difficult to beat a number of its opponents, especially Spain. Part of their problem was they approached the game as a gifted athlete, instead of as a gifted team. The NBA Dream Team was a basketball team loaded with talent, but they stumbled in a few games and had to pull the gold out in the final two minutes. Oh yes, the players said they liked it that way, and it had fans on the edge of their seats, and a few analysts said Spain's height gave them problems, but the truth was there was bad collaboration among team mates. They were together on the court, but not together as a collaborative team.

So how does this translate in the business world? It has been documented that many CEOs and other top-tier business professional have admitted that much of their success came from great "corporate teams," or "collaborative efforts from some great co-workers." Their success was a direct result of various groups of people sharing ideas, brain-storming a problem, and finding a working solution – it was the group defining the problem, seeking a solution, agreeing on the best course of action, and then implementing the fix. Some call it taking team work to the "next" level. But it's more than that.

Supervisors, managers, and business leaders like to see collaborative efforts, since those efforts reap great rewards. These rewards include: sharing knowledge and job skills, learning together, building consensus, and work retention as more employees find job satisfaction through collaboration. These rewards translate into solutions to complex problems and bringing needed knowledge, skills, and expertise to the table when needed. And sometimes this happens through another tactic of collaboration – divide and conquer. But so far, we've been looking at collaboration in a diminutive state. Let's look at an example of a collaborative effort in big business, where the stakes can be huge. Let's look at Microsoft and its software Microsoft Office and how the software giant used the collaborative effort of "divide and conquer."

One of the great obstacles Microsoft and other media giants, like Apple, have to overcome on a daily basis in the open market is with free products. "Free" rings true with consumers, especially if the product is simple to use and can add value to their life. So Microsoft had to divide and conquer the competition. What the leadership realized was its Office product's perceived value increased, as more and more customers used the service. So Microsoft upped the ante by reaching agreements with many computer companies to have Office uploaded onto its basic models. This was the "seed" the company needed to flood the market. With the larger user base, companies were encouraged to buy the software for their business, since employees were familiar with it and would not require a lot of training. Another benefit of using Office was it eliminated incompatibility issues with customers and other businesses, since the software program was popular and universally being used. This strategy is called "segmenting the market" or, as it is better known, "dividing" the market so it can "conquer." That is collaboration on multi-levels in big business. 

Divide and conquer on a smaller level simply could be this example -- a business owner who wants to open a second office. Instead of assigning the task to two people and giving them three months to get the office open, he breaks the whole project up into smaller pieces involving more employees. While one is out looking at prospective locations, another is looking into the cost and availability of movers. Another individual is interviewing and hiring new employees to fill the office, while someone else is figuring out equipment needs. What would have taken a few people many months, now will be accomplished in one month, because of their collaborative efforts of "divide and conquer."

One of the more difficult traits of collaboration, and possibly its downfall in the business world, is that for all its benefits to be truly utilized, the individuals involved must be willing to sacrifice for the overall betterment of the team. There are times when one individual must step back and let another take center stage, since his abilities may be what are needed at that moment. A great example of collaboration involves Special Forces training, where you are assigned a combat buddy. You train together, sleep, eat, fight, peel potatoes, dig fox holes, run miles on end; you are glued together for the duration of your training. In fact, in some of the units, you and your buddy are together for your entire career. In training, the duo are taught that if one falters the other picks him up and carries his combat buddy, so the team finishes together. 

Sometimes a team comes to a defining moment in collaboration when they suddenly realize the true benefits associated with it. A great example was in the movie, An Officer and a Gentleman, where Zack Mayo (Richard Gere) is about to break the obstacle course record, but stops near the finish line, runs back, picks up Seeger (Lisa Eilbacher), and proceeds to coach and encourage her over the 12-foot wall so she will not be eliminated from the training course. As she makes it over the wall, and the two complete the course, the rest of the class is encouraging and cheering them. That is true collaboration. For outstanding results in any endeavor involving a team, collaboration is a vital ingredient in the recipe for success or you will end up with a fallen cake. There's the chance it might taste good, but it's not a cake you proudly display.

As you are beginning to see, the hardest part of collaboration is getting everyone to put their ego aside, so the person who excels at a certain task can take the lead. This takes negotiation, leadership, and communication skills all rolled into one. Once this lesson is learned, the whole team succeeds.

In the small business world, this lesson is one of the hardest for an owner to learn. He has invested his life savings into his business and thinks he must do everything. This leads to failure. The owner must realize he is not the expert at everything, but he needs to trust the people he hired. He needs to collaborate with them, so his business goals will be achieved. Collaboration is a definite skill that has to be learned -- it's learning to let go so the team, as a whole, can reach its predetermined goal. 

There are other challenges associated with collaboration. One of the main stumbling blocks is easily overlooked by many managers. If it was actually realized, the results would be a more harmonious workplace and less stress on management. This overlooked stumbling block is the realization that collaboration requires a fundamentally different work setting from the hierarchal structures found in most businesses today. For collaboration to have a chance, the working environment must be flexible. Information, resources, and knowledge, must be freely shared among workers.

The other part of the overlooked equation is that employees are entering the work force with different perceptions and understandings. Baby Boomers understand work better in the hierarchal system that has been in existence since the 1950s, while the Millennials are used to a more team setting, where everything is shared. Toss Generation X into the picture, where you have a mix from the other two groups, and you have a group of people with some difficulty adapting to each other. The challenge for the leader of the team is to find compatibility and get everyone working together on the same page of instructions. The benefits will far outweigh the struggles for the group to find a working relationship. Each group of individuals brings valuable insight to the table, just from their backgrounds. The generation mixes can, and do, make dynamic teams once everyone knows and understands how each member will approach the task at hand. It's the leader's job to open this communication and keep it freely flowing, so collaboration can work its magic and reach its goal or goals the fastest and most efficient way possible.

Some of the benefits coming from this dynamic team will be keenness and awareness of the situation and task at hand; a perpetual motivation to complete the job; a weighing of all alternatives; team work and voluntarily seeking compromise; and finally, you would have a proactive, instead of a reactive, team, which was the difference between the 1992 and 2008/2012 Dream Teams.

In the past, collaboration involved people physically meeting and working together on a task or project, but with the advances in technology – email, video-conferencing, texting, and cell phones -- people no longer must be in the same building, city, or even country, to be a part of a team.

As mentioned earlier, most will agree that collaboration is beneficial, but its value for some leaders is questionable. This questionable value partly comes from the culture in which collaboration is being attempted, while at other times, it has to do with the lack of effective management in its processes. Without true buy-in from the organization and its leaders, the actual value will not be realized. It takes buy-in for it to be a success. It takes commitment of resources. It takes the proper culture for collaboration to thrive. But with all its nuances in definition and perceived value, collaboration can, and does, bring an organization true merit and worth. Collaboration, used properly, can bring projects to a close faster, place new products in customers' hands ahead of schedule, and actually reduce overhead, or even startup costs, for new innovations.

And collaboration has the ability to reduce turnover in personnel, since many enjoy teamwork and the freedom it brings. Teamwork reduces the stress on individuals, since they do not feel the weight of a complete project on their shoulders. Utilizing collaboration to create a team, allows employees to feel as if they are a part of something bigger than themselves and gives the feeling of accomplishment when they overcome an obstacle that is perceivably larger than one person. All of this together adds to a reduction in turnover. This can be a great savings for a company, considering the average cost for recruiting, screening, training, and getting a new worker plugged in to an organization costs about $4,000. So, with all these values, and with the advances in technology to allow team members to be in varied locations, collaboration has become a valuable resource for leaders to use to reach a specified goal.

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  • 6 Months to Complete
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  • Accredited CEUs
  • Universal Class is an IACET Accredited Provider

    Course Lessons

    Average Lesson Rating:
    4.6 / 5 Stars (Average Rating)
    "Extraordinarily Helpful"
    (600 votes)

    Lesson 1: What is Collaboration? Benefits of Collaboration

    Utilizing collaboration to create a team allows employees to feel as if they are a part of something bigger than themselves, and gives the feeling of accomplishment when they overcome an obstacle that is perceivably larger than one person. 11 Total Points
    • Lesson 1 Video
    • Take Survey: Reasons for Taking this Course
    • Complete Assignment: An Introduction
    • Complete: Exam 1

    Lesson 2: Overcoming Defensiveness

    A person should never choose to be defensive, since this shuts down their abilities to think anything through to a positive outcome. 8 Total Points
    • Lesson 2 Video
    • Review 2 Articles: Business Know-How ?Buzz Off?; Overcoming the Destructive Dynamics of Defensiveness
    • Complete: Exam 2

    Lesson 3: Understanding Truthfulness in Collaboration

    Truthfulness is not something people automatically do, but instead is a trait that must be learned. Telling the truth actually fosters truth-telling in others. 7 Total Points
    • Lesson 3 Video
    • Review Article: Building Positive Relationships at Work
    • Complete: Exam 3

    Lesson 4: Listening Skills Requirement in Collaboration

    Listeners want to interrupt, interject, and influence the messenger with their own take of the message. The first secret to great listening is learning the fine art of lip-lock -- the science of being quiet. 7 Total Points
    • Lesson 4 Video
    • Review Article: Listening: The Forgotten Skill Necessary for Effective Collaboration
    • Complete: Exam 4

    Lesson 5: Self-Awareness and Awareness of Others in Collaboration

    Discussing and expanding our knowledge of ourselves and others� ideas, goals, values, and desires, along with their stories, is called collaborative awareness. 8 Total Points
    • Lesson 5 Video
    • Review Article: Self Awareness and the Effective Leader
    • Complete: Exam 5

    Lesson 6: The Life Cycle of Collaborative Teams

    What experts do agree on about collaborative teams is there are predictable patterns that emerge when observing these groups. 9 Total Points
    • Lesson 6 Video
    • Review 2 Articles: Building a Collaborative Team Environment; The 12 Habits Of Highly Collaborative Organizations
    • Complete: Exam 6

    Lesson 7: Building Consensus

    Consensus is give-and-take in information sharing. It's the ability to discuss differences calmly and come to some form of an agreement. By discussing differences in opinion, new ideas are free to surface. 7 Total Points
    • Lesson 7 Video
    • Review 2 Articles: How to Build Consensus in the Strategic Initiatives Team; Effective Teams Strive for Consensus
    • Complete: Exam 7

    Lesson 8: Resolving Conflicts

    With today's global environment and the need for collaborative teams to tackle myriad problems and issues, and then reach strong, consensus decisions, leaders must be adept at conflict. 6 Total Points
    • Lesson 8 Video
    • Review 2 Articles: Want Collaboration?: Accept?and Actively Manage?Conflict; A Manager's Guide to Resolving Conflicts in Collaborative Networks
    • Complete: Exam 8

    Lesson 9: Designing a Process Map

    Changes created in one office can affect a large spectrum of people and processes. 8 Total Points
    • Lesson 9 Video
    • Review Article: A designer's guide to collaboration
    • Complete: Exam 9

    Lesson 10: Manage Accountability

    Accountability is the primary practice that will make collaboration a success. 9 Total Points
    • Lesson 10 Video
    • Complete: Exam 10

    Lesson 11: Overcome Barriers

    Now that we have an idea of the challenges involved with incorporating collaboration within the workplace, let's take a look at some of the barriers. 8 Total Points
    • Lesson 11 Video
    • Review 2 Articles: Overcoming Barriers to Collaboration; Just Collaborate: Overcome Three Barriers to Strategy Execution
    • Complete: Exam 11

    Lesson 12: Running Effective Meetings and Communicating Progress

    Meetings are a standard practice for disseminating information, for planning events or projects, handling issues, developing strategies, and/or for making decisions to allow work flow to continue. 7 Total Points
    • Lesson 12 Video
    • Review 2 Articles: 5 Rules for Efficient, Effective Meetings; Leadership Lesson: Tools for Effective Team Meetings - How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love my Team
    • Complete: Exam 12

    Lesson 13: Using Tools for Viewing Problems, Generating Ideas, and Evaluating Solutions

    Fixing a problem can be time consuming and could require effort. At times it can be expensive, but in the long run you will have a stronger organization. 7 Total Points
    • Lesson 13 Video
    • Review Article: Assessing Your Collaboration: A Self Evaluation Tool
    • Complete: Exam 13

    Lesson 14: Problem Solving and Negotiating

    With so many issues needing decisions each and every day, you would think people might have a large arsenal of skills for negotiating; but most people have surprisingly few skills to fall back on in negotiations. 73 Total Points
    • Lesson 14 Video
    • Take Poll: Course Completion Poll: Your Thoughts
    • Take Survey: Course Comments
    • Take Survey: Program Evaluation Follow-up Survey (End of Course)
    • Complete: Exam 14
    • Complete: The Final Exam
    Total Course Points

    Learning Outcomes

    By successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
    • Define what collaboration is.
    • Describe overcoming defensiveness.
    • Describe understanding truthfulness in collaboration.
    • Summarize listening skills requirement in collaboration.
    • Describe self-awareness and awareness of others in collaboration.
    • Describe the life cycle of collaborative teams.
    • Describe methods for building consensus.
    • Describe methods for resolving conflicts.
    • Describe methods for designing a process map.
    • Describe methods for running effective meetings and communicating progress.
    • Define tools for viewing problems, generating ideas, and evaluating solutions, and
    • Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.

    Additional Course Information

    Online CEU Certificate
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    Document Your CEUs on Your Resume
    Course Title: Collaboration Skills
    Course Number: 8900340
    Course Requirements: View Course Requirements
    Lessons Rating: 4.6 / 5 Stars (600 votes)
    Languages: English - United States, Canada and other English speaking countries
    Course Type: Professional Development (Self-Paced, Online Class)
    CEU Value: 0.7 IACET CEUs (Continuing Education Units)
    CE Accreditation: Universal Class, Inc. has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
    Grading Policy: Earn a final grade of 70% or higher to receive an online/downloadable CEU Certification documenting CEUs earned.
    Assessment Method: Lesson assignments and review exams
    Instructor: John Chouinard
    Syllabus: View Syllabus
    Duration: Continuous: Enroll anytime!
    Course Fee: $50.00 (no CEU Certification) || with Online CEU Certification: $75.00

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