Collaboration, or working with others to produce something or achieve a common end goal, isn’t always easy. Successful collaboration requires that you keep several factors in mind.
First and foremost, you need to know what motivates those with whom you are collaborating. This is important because what motivates one person does not necessarily motivate another, and to achieve a successful working relationship you need to know if your goals are aligned.
To create a healthy, productive work environment, it is essential to understand what drives each individual. There are three defining factors that motivate most people in their relationships with others:
In simple terms, achievement-motivated people are generally goal-oriented; affiliation-motivated people tend to prefer collaboration over competition and usually avoid conflict; and those motivated by power look to influence others and often want to lead.
[ How do your team meetings stack up? Read also: Zoom tips: 6 ways to make meetings better. ]
It is not impossible to collaborate with someone who does not share your motivation, but you should be aware of where that person is coming from. Your interactions with them will indicate how highly motivated they are by each of these factors.
Instead of judging others, try to understand what moves them and work with their qualities. This helps to ensure that your collaborative relationship will flow smoothly: When we feel supported in our goals, we tend to work better.
In many cases, motivation is not generalized: What motivates a person in one situation isn’t necessarily the same thing that motivates them under a different set of circumstances.
Consider the five-factor model: Where does your teammate fit?
Motivation is not the only factor to consider, however – it’s also important to look at how their personality traits and qualities match with yours.
Consider the OCEAN model, also known as the Five-Factor model, developed by Robert R. McCrae and Jüri Allik:
Openness: How receptive are they to new experiences, including learning new things, thinking outside the box, and accepting changes? Rating high in openness generally indicates that the person is creative and imaginative. An individual who is low in this trait may be more likely to hold more traditional values and to prefer routine.
Conscientiousness: Are they able to exercise self-control and act according to their principles – in other words, do what is right and act in socially acceptable ways? People who grade high in conscientiousness are usually responsible, persistent, and resourceful. People who score low in this area may tend to procrastinate and act impulsively.
Extroversion: Are they energized by the company of others, or do they prefer solitude? A person high in extroversion likely enjoys the attention of others and feels secure in social situations. In contrast, those who score low in extroversion are probably more reserved and introspective. They may seek solitude to recharge and prefer interacting with smaller groups of people.
Agreeableness: How well do they get along with others? Not to be confused with extroversion, agreeableness refers to how mindful one is of others. An agreeable person is usually well-liked and takes an interest in the lives of others. People who rate low in agreeableness tend to be more self-centered and unlikely to put another person’s needs before their own.
Neuroticism: Are they emotionally stable and comfortable within themselves? This trait involves how often and how intensely people feel negative emotions. A person who rates high in neuroticism often feels insecure and vulnerable. They may be perceived as overly sensitive and may overreact in certain situations. These individuals may struggle to feel comfortable even if their situation improves. A person who scores low on neuroticism, in contrast, is likely more confident and adventurous, and not prone to self-doubt.
First step: Know your own motivations
There is no specific formula to gauge your colleagues’ motivations or personality traits, and you can never be completely sure of their mindset. But it helps to know yourself. The better you understand your own personality traits and motivations, the easier it is to spot these things in others.
You can learn a lot about others by looking for clues in their behavior and conversations. In a collaborative space, for example, ask your colleague or team member what task they would like to do. Their response will help you see what motivates them. For example, suppose you are working on a project that requires research and a presentation – a colleague who prefers to do research over public speaking may be low on extroversion.
Before you can determine what motivates others and apply the OCEAN model to better understand their personality traits, you need to know yourself: What are your own personality traits? What things motivate you?
Answering these questions will help you assess how effectively you can work with others and if the collaboration will succeed.
[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]