09/27/2017 09:29 am ET
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When I plan and facilitate workshops at global companies, or speak to teams of management about creating cultures of engagement, happiness and success, I often emphasize the importance of collaboration as a key factor in driving success.

· Collaboration within a team

· Collaboration across teams

· Collaboration amongst peers

· Collaboration from the top down

· Collaboration from the bottom up

Yet sometimes, it is more effective to not collaborate at all.

While collaboration can be powerful in driving corporate goals forward, increasing teamwork and advancing progress within a company, it can also be devastating.


According to results of studies conducted by The Harvard Business Review, up to 35% of collaboration that is additive to the organization, comes from only 3% to 5% of employees.

Why is this? Why aren’t more people engaged in sharing ideas, strategies and actions? How can collaboration actually hurt a company?

What I have discovered over the past 13 years in helping professionals find new positions (because they hate their current jobs), and helping companies to design programs that engage their employees and keep them on board, is that people don’t collaborate because, well, they simply don’t want to.

Sure, they say all the right words.

Absolutely. Great idea. We should do that.

Yet, these positive words are primarily expressed during meetings where someone is present that needs to be impressed. It is a self-serving agenda.

But the real serving to one’s self is in not collaborating. And here’s why.

Let’s say you are a senior level Investment Banker (a sector I work with every week) that focuses on the media silo. You are charged with closing lots of mergers and financings and have a personal revenue goal to meet each year in order to get the big bucks bonus. You have a client that you have known for years who wants to do a merger. But the merger is with a software company. In comes the software banker. But the software banker doesn’t know the client. Yet, software is his coverage area. And, if the two of you collaborate on the business, you split the fee credit, which doesn’t help your cause. Not to mention, you feel a bit territorial. After all, it’s your client. You have the relationship. So why collaborate?

INFIGHTING is one of the biggest reasons employees don’t collaborate.

Yet, if the two senior bankers collaborate and close the deal, everyone wins. It’s hard to see that when you look at your fee being cut in half. Yet, if you don’t close the deal, there’s no fee to split anyway, so why not do more deals together?

In fact, team selling is more effective when you both bring your added knowledge to the equation. A Harvard Business Review collaborative study from 2002 – 2012 revealed that one person’s impact on company performance decreased by 27%, while the impact of network performance collaboration went up by 27%. It makes sense to collaborate.

In order to be effective at collaboration, consider these key success factors:

· Desire to drive business forward

· Sharing of knowledge

· Communicating clearly and regularly

· Operating from a helpful perspective

· Attitude: Not approaching a project as competition

Some of the most successful investment bankers I know at some of the largest firms in the world collaborate. Many don’t want to, but they realize that in doing so, everyone wins and more business gets completed.

Another reason to not collaborate is LADDER CLIMBING.

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Ladder climbers want to step over the other person in order to shine brighter and get promoted faster. This often happens in the low to middle ranks at companies. There is a lot of positioning, back stabbing and kissing up. In these cases, it is best to not collaborate. It is better to do your best work and let it speak for itself, without blocking the peer beside you in the process.

Ladder climbers are annoying. They alienate themselves from the rest of the team, and sometimes the company. If you are a ladder climber, you actually will climb slower by going it alone.

A study by The University of Wisconsin concluded that helping others at work not only makes you more productive, but happier too. You make friends, you enjoy your work more and you become more open to collaboration. Success follows.

So, if you are willing to stop climbing over others and help them instead, you are bound to be more successful with your own career too.


When the goal is clear. For example:

· To increase company revenues

· To decrease costs

· To close a particular transaction

· To create a new product or solution

Be specific on the goal of the particular collaboration. When you do this, the opportunity for successful collaboration is possible.

As a starting point in the focused collaboration process, make sure you:


Get to know the individual talents, skills and ideas of each person who will be part of the collaborative process. Don’t have one dominant personality run the process. Have it be a flat organization for the project. Everyone has an equal voice, regardless of title. Everyone has input. Even sitting around a round table can help facilitate. Change seats every meeting.


Once you get to know your people and allow for unbiased, non-judgmental, open floor communication, watch how quickly your collaborative efforts result in goals reached, happiness increased, loyalty solidified and friendships made.

Collaboration is so worthwhile, but only when it is set up properly.

Jody B. Miller

Career and Life Coach Jody B. Miller is author of the new book “From DRIFT to SHIFT: How Change Can Bring True Meaning and Happiness to Your Work and Life.” Jody is known as the “The Work Happiness Expert.” As CEO of C2C Executive Search & Strategic Management, Jody has helped thousands of people find true meaning in their work and in their lives and has helped companies create engaging corporate cultures. She speaks, writes and teaches about work happiness throughout the world.

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