It takes two, says Cathy Harris (or three, or four …)

Most of us have experienced that euphoric feeling of falling in love, that feeling of “oh my gosh, this is it!” An explosion of romantic emotion and subtle flutters of butterflies and buzzy bees. It is an amazing and beautiful feeling. Yes, I know, you are probably thinking what does this have to do with collaboration or team work. Well, everything really!

How often have you sat at your desk after being given a project or task by your manager, and you sit there staring into oblivion thinking how the hell am I going to accomplish this task? I am neither a CA nor an accountant, I can negotiate, but have no idea on how to win it. I am great at organising the year end function, but not convinced about pulling together a major company event…” And so the many uncertainties unfold in your mind as you slowly contemplate your demise at the hands of yourself!

Alternatively, depending on your personality, you may just decide to go the full hog, on your own, and discover at its completion all the hair-raising defects, the missed opportunities, the what ifs and should’ves. It could be the nightmare from hell where everything goes wrong. Or, and I say this lightly, you feel you did a great job and sit smugly in your seat oblivious to all the negative comment and criticism surrounding you, concluding that “they don’t know the effort I put in, nor understand what my manager wanted” and “I think the Hawaiian theme was amazing” – when in reality the décor didn’t fit in with the reason for the event in the first place. A bit of an ego trip for most parts, and it does squat for your personal reputation.

Okay, so whereto from here then? What is this collaboration I talk of? Collaboration in its fullness is a resource. Yip, a resource, like a Xerox that prints out pages, scans, staples and emails. Each mechanical part used to its unique specification. Collaboration – a wonderful resource packed full of the goodness needed to accomplish greatness in the successful completion of, well, anything! Collaborative resourcing, as I have called it, is the inclusion of the expertise and specialised skills we are all surrounded with in our workplace, each with an expert unique talent and skill. Ah ha! You got it – your peers, the people you work with, your team mates.

Collaborative resourcing is the coming together of the different skills, strengths, personalities and experiences which will assist you to be more productive, more efficient and far more creative in the way you go about accomplishing any project or task confidently, and in the knowledge that that you have used the resources around you. Think about it, every part that makes up an engine is vital, so too is the methodology behind collaboration.

Convinced yet? No, okay, well the reasons why you should learn the art of collaboration, and bring in the mix of teamwork, are plenty. When we collaborate and team up there is always a transfer of skills, a learning, a new understanding and a shared experience. As in the example above about seeking financial assistance in planning a project, a Chartered Accountant is more likely to provide you with the correct figures, the risks involved, provide advice on how the financials should be applied and the precise process to follow in its completion. Your event may also require the expertise of a legal person, who would be able to give the correct legal advice, obtain the correct documentation and indemnities for your event, and ensure that your organisation is covered correctly should an incident occur at the venue.

By using the resources around you, you will not be bogged down by one major project to accomplish on your own, but will have the opportunity to recruit the experts in your team to work on different segments of the project for you and with you. When we work as a team, we value and respect the input and ideas from co-workers. It provides a wonderful sense of belonging and accountability. Collaborating as a team has a sense of camaraderie and inclusion. People want to participate, and we all want to be part of the winning team!

Creativity is welcomed and forms the innovation of new concepts and ideas. It’s at this point where you get that wonderful euphoric feeling of knowing “this is going be awesome”. It simply cannot be ignored. Collaboration and teamwork need to collide, creating an energy and outcome that exceeds expectations and sets new standards.

Aside from the fact that collaborative teamwork and resourcing is a great leadership attribute, more and more organisations are focusing on integrating their leadership into other areas of the business in order to ensure cross-pollination of skills, knowledge and expertise. When we practise the principles of collaboration, it brings out the best in us as Executive Assistants, and sets us apart from the mediocre. Leaders learn from us. Successful collaboration brings about a change that we can all take credit for and, as quoted by Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”

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Cathy Harris is an Executive PA at Discovery Invest. Nominated SA National Office Professional of the Year in 2006, she drives various initiatives both locally and internationally. Cathy facilitates training initiatives which include in-house PA workshops ... (Read More)

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