Collaboration and Productivity - Getting the Most out of the Fruitbowl

by The Smartsheet Team

Who can forget the classic proverb, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”

And, of course, the equally well-known proverb, “Many hands make the work light.”

So which is it, ancient proverbs of conventional wisdom? Are productivity and collaboration mutually exclusive? Or does each contribute to the success of the other?

The simplest answer may be that both can be true. Collaborating with others can make a project move at light speed or slow to a crawl. It just depends on how well you understand the way other people work, and how best to complement their skills with your own. 

The team at Smartsheet launched the #FruitfulWork movement to help people work together better, regardless of their individual work style. Here are a few quick tips from experts in productivity and collaboration.


Balance alone time with regular check-ins

Some people thrive with constant feedback. Some would rather work independently and come back together to share their results. It can be hard for each of these work styles to understand the other, but it’s crucial to strike a good balance.

Says productivity expert Carl Pullein:

“For me, leave me alone and let me get on with the work. You can check in with me any time that you like — as long as it’s not every five minutes — but I like to have the majority of the day to get on with my work.”

If you prefer constant communication and you’re working with someone who prefers more independence, one solution is to use text-based messaging and email instead of mandatory meetings. This allows everyone to respond to communication on their own time without interrupting their workflow.

Lisette Sutherland, a director at workshop operator Collaboration Supowers, says, “I need lots of time for focused, deep work in order to create content and to put new ideas together. So I prefer asynchronous communication over synchronous communication.”

For example, changing your daily video call to a weekly call supplemented by text chat can help your team work better together.


Be aware of your blind spots

Every style of work comes with its own strengths and weaknesses. Big-picture folks can miss the details, while emotionally-driven folks may miss the logical side (and vice versa for each).

It’s important to know where the gaps in your skillset might be and work to counteract them. Paula Rizzo, author of Listful Living, knows that her strength is in working through details. But, she says, “I sometimes tend to forget to zoom out and look at the big picture. The way I get around this is to get people on my team who can get me out of my to-do list tendencies and take some time to talk about the big picture.”

Productivity coach and consultant Deb Lee balances her tendency to be engrossed in the current task by making sure she has a clear view of the end product: “I take a walk into the future to visualize the end result, then I walk back to the present to make sure my actions — especially my very next action — all line up to meet those goals,” she says. 

To make sure she doesn’t lose sight of the destination, Deb says, “I add those goals to a project management tool so that I don’t forget, and as the project goes on, I review them periodically to make sure I’m still headed in the right direction.”

This type of self-assessment can help make you a more well-rounded and productive member of your team. And it extends to “people skills” as well, says Phil Simon, a trainer, speaker and author who has written extensively on workforce collaboration:

Early in my career, I would sometimes discount others' opinions at work. HR folks told me that I needed to work on my "warm and fuzzies."

As I matured and became more self-aware, I realized that all of our backgrounds influence how we perceive the world. Not everyone is as comfortable with data and technology as I am. So I have found that using simple analogies and examples helps demystify new applications.

Communicating effectively with other work types is a crucial element of a productive team.


Create a well-rounded team

As much as we should try to balance out our skill sets internally, however, there’s no substitute for a well-rounded team. People who think and work differently from you can find and strengthen the weak spots you didn’t know you had.

This is especially true for leaders, who are responsible for putting a team together in the first place. Sally Foley-Lewis, author and leadership expert, offers this advice:

Remember, as a leader, you are not brilliant at everything. That's why, as leaders, we actually put people around us to fill the gaps of the skills that all the others don't have. Imagine a team full of exactly the same person, with exactly the same skill! Nothing would get done. Your people around you are there to do great work. Let them do it.


Be fruitful on your own and with the team

Fruitful work requires a combination of knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, seeking to balance your blind spots internally, and surrounding yourself with people who can help fill in the blanks and challenge you to do your best work.

With smart communication and a diverse team, productivity and collaboration aren’t opposites — they’re interlocking parts that make the whole project work.

Follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter for all our #FruitfulWork advice.