How to be a successful collaborator

Whether it’s you and one more, or you and a score of people, the art of collaboration is not a given. Some of us like to work alone, but generally it’s more likely we’ll be working with others. This requires careful planning and the right attitude for successful (and happy) results.

It might be you who’s in the driving seat of the next project or you’re simply one in the group, ready and able to help get the job done. The following guidelines should get you where you need to go

1. Know your purpose


What’s the group’s goal? An event, the publication of a book or magazine or maybe even a public art commission? Without the parameters of your project fully outlined, things may go pear-shaped from the get-go.

So, what do you do?

  • get the visionary or writer amongst you to map out your plans
  • set a budget
  • set a time-line with specific deadlines
  • research and base your decisions on solid, reliable information
  • fill in the details as you go

Sometimes you’ll base your decisions on your gut instinct. Trust your gut as well, and get going.

2. Deal with people

It’s been said that work would be wonderful if it weren’t for other people. In order to get by we need to put aside our cynicism and manage our work relationships. This doesn’t have to be hard or horrible. When you have the choice of your work colleagues, it can be a wondrous thing, an opportunity to work with like-minded souls who share your passions. More often than not though, we have to work with people who may not share our work ethic or our values. Don’t despair, as everyone has their strengths and generally wants to contribute. Ensure everyone is clear on their roles and responsibilities

“It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too)
that those who learned to collaborate and improvise most
effectively have prevailed.” – Charles Darwin

Finally, if you suspect that someone in your team isn’t going to deliver, always have a ‘Plan B’ at the ready.

3. Set boundaries

Start on the right note and get the ground rules established. Something along the lines of: Please respond to all communication that asks for a response. Please do not ignore emails and messages and stay in the loop. Of course, life gets in the way, but do your best, or at least, let your team know why you are off the radar. 

Every one needs a deadlineEnsure your event, launch or project has set deadlines and that each person is aware of them.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate

It’s better to ask too many questions than leave your query until it’s too late. If in doubt, ask. If unsure, ask. If you need a second opinion, ask. If you need help, ask for it. We have been granted to gift of language and we are obliged to use it to make the world a better place.

5. Stay strong and positive


There’ll be pleasure and pain along the way, but a job well done is always worth it. Keep your goal in mind and you’ll get there. There’ll be days when you want to scream, but keep your head on. Do the screaming in a safe space like your bedroom or with teammates who understand your frustrations.

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See the absurdity in all things and remember to laugh at them and at yourself.

6. Celebrate


We so seldom take the time to consider all that we’ve done to be where we are right now. Thanks to collaborations, in whatever form they take, we get the opportunity to learn a lot about others and ourselves. Do make sure to celebrate a job well done.


One thought on “How to be a successful collaborator

  1. I’ve undertaken my very first collaboration project and found this post to be incredibly helpful. Your points on setting clear boundaries and even just having a laugh when things get a bit absurd are important things to keep in mind. We need to step away from the idea of getting things perfect and just enjoy the overall process of creating great engaging work.


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