Collaborate to Accumulate

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Collaboration tips for a healthy agency.

Collaboration is a cornerstone of agency culture. It’s also the first step in the creative process. As our industry matures, and skillsets become specialised, effective collaboration is even more important. We need to collaborate if we’re to continue creating impactful ideas that affect change for our clients.

At the Union we’re a happy collective of five agencies, each with our own specialisms and areas of expertise, that love to collaborate. In fact, collaboration is so ingrained in the way we work, we rarely notice we’re doing it.

But given its importance, we shouldn’t take it for granted. Organisations and teams that collaborate well are much more likely to be financially successful, more culturally aligned, and have higher staff engagement rates. Good news for the business and clients alike.

Clearly collaboration makes good business sense, but it’s not an innate skill. It needs learnt, practised, and honed. With this in mind I asked some of my favourite collaborators from the across the Union team to share their top tips for making it work.

Our top 10 tips for effective collaboration

Be clear. Roles need to be defined and agreed upon at the outset. When people come together from diverse disciplines and perspectives, there should be a strong understanding of what each individual brings to the team. There needs to be recognition that every role is an important piece of the puzzle that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Show respect. Recognise the value that each individual brings to the team, their unique insight and expertise. As well as respecting their boundaries, workload and other commitments. This respect shouldn’t be conditional on success. It’s just as important to sustain mutual respect when things aren’t going right, so that the team can work together to fix the situation rather than waste time apportioning blame.

Create conversations. Ongoing dialogue is essential to keep track of shared goals. Depending on project timelines, a quick weekly or even daily huddle ensures that everyone is on the same page. This fosters a culture of open communication where team members have honest discussions and raise new ideas without fear of judgement.

Active listening is essential. By the nature of our jobs we want to offer solutions and be the first one to do it. But with collaboration comes patience and consideration – other people are involved. It’s not all about you. Don’t be scared of someone getting to a solution first.

Build trust. The whole team needs to be committed to the same shared goal and feel comfortable that they can rely and be relied upon by their colleagues. Everybody needs to do what they say they’re going to do, when they say they’re going to do it.

Set team goals. Rather than working toward predefined goals made by management, come together as a team to outline objectives and make actionable goals. This makes each team member feel more purposeful, and strengthens accountability because everyone has a stake in the common purpose and end goal.

Balance team and individual. Although you may want to increase the collaborative nature of your organisation, remember to retain some aspects of a more individual-driven workflow. Some tasks may be more effective when completed by one person. You don’t want to invite so many ideas that the decision-making process gets bogged down. Additionally, one-on-one communication still has its place. Listen to each employee’s needs carefully and give feedback in private.

Continually adapt. It takes a bit of experimentation to figure out which tools and practices work best for your team or project. Be aware that your processes may adapt over time. And don’t assume that technology will solve all your problems — it’s more important to develop a sturdy strategy than to rely on the latest technology.

Acknowledgment: Although collaborative work focuses on teamwork, still highlight every individual’s benefit. Don’t micromanage people in your effort to encourage collaboration — people need a degree of autonomy to feel purposeful. To do this, encourage creative thinking, don’t judge ideas prematurely, evaluate the ideas (rather than the person communicating them), and recognise the contribution of every collaborator.

Call out people who aren’t all in. But do it in a constructive way, discreetly…

We’re absolutely all in when it comes to collaboration. If you’d like to chat about how The Union can help make change happen on your next project then drop me an email at