Collaboration: Keys to Playing Well With Others

The ability to collaborate effectively is one of the most common and important leadership skills I see on corporate executives’ individual development plans.

When someone tells me, “this leader needs to collaborate better,” it often means the person does not play well with others or rubs key people the wrong way.

Here are a couple of tips if this person is you:

  1. Find out what you do that annoys people. And how you can be less annoying.

Since we tend not to be at our best interpersonally when we are stressed or in conflict, ask people how you come across when you are under pressure or when you disagree. Then ask for suggestions for how you might communicate more positively or constructively in these situations. Self-awareness is the first step to closing the gap between your intent and your impact.

  1. Check your attitude and intent.

Often, we are annoying when we are annoyed. Who annoys you? What annoys you? It is normal to be annoyed sometimes. The skill is in keeping the annoyance in perspective so it does not color your whole picture of a person or situation.

If you are annoyed with someone, try focusing on what you genuinely admire or value about that person. To avoid communicating to others who frustrate you that you think they are worthless, work at not thinking they are worthless. Identify what you genuinely appreciate or admire about them. And tell them.

If you are annoyed with a situation and unable to change it, practice thankfulness. It is amazing (and well-researched) that developing a habit of expressing gratitude can not only lead to stronger relationships, but also better health, less depression, more happiness, more generous behavior and many other benefits.

Taking an honest look at the impact of our actions and attitudes and choosing to shift those can help us collaborate better. As we do this, more people will want to play and work with us.

Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults. As a leadership consultant and executive coach, he helps executives and their teams improve their engagement, effectiveness and impact. You can reach him at or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.