One of my favorite topics in leadership is collaboration and teamwork. Years ago I thought teamwork and collaboration were the same. Then I did my research and, to my amazement, I realized they are far from it.

Organizations need employees who both work as a team and collaborate. This has become particularly interesting since the pandemic started, because the concepts of team and teamwork have shifted with remote work. So collaboration becomes even more important than ever to make sure the organization’s goals are met.

Once you read the differences, you will see what I mean AND perhaps learn something new about Comfluence™.

What Is Collaboration? How Is It Different from Teamwork?

Collaboration is about coming together and putting your best ideas into the service of something bigger than yourself. The focus of collaboration is the process. The act of collaboration creates and shapes the work that must be done to finish a project to completion. As the work progresses the goal is defined. 

It is more like a living document; it is dynamic and flexible which, actually, describes the “real world” of getting the job done — beyond the written agendas, to-do lists, project management milestones and the like.

Here are four key differences between teamwork and collaboration from Lisa Earle McLeod, author of The Triangle of Truth:

  1. Teamwork: Command and control
    Collaboration: Creative and flexible

When you’re driving the ball down the line, players stick to their assigned roles. You have to make snap decisions. But much like the Army, they’re within the context of the job you trained for and the skill drills you’ve been doing for months.

Collaboration requires more flexibility. The person who called the plays yesterday may need to fall back and take direction from the person who’s been sitting on the bench, observing the action and formulating a strategy. Collaboration is about bringing unique skills and talents together in a flexible way that supports the task at hand.

  1. Teamwork: Regulation playbook
    Collaboration: Evolves over time

Teamwork is successful when everyone knows the rules of the game and the competition adheres to the same regulations. But when the game is constantly changing, you need the ability to adapt your formation. Collaboration allows you to change your structure to support the situation, which is often in flux.

  1. Teamwork: Do what the coach tells you to do
    Collaboration: Figure out what needs to be done

Teams operate in a hierarchical structure. The coach is in charge, and the reporting structure is from the top down. Collaboration is more fluid. The coach may not even be in the same location as the players, and they may or may not understand all the positions. True collaborators require support, but they’re self-directed in their problem solving and creativity.

  1. Teamwork: Crush your opponent
    Collaboration: Contribute to the big picture

Sports teams want the other guys to feel some pain. You either win or you lose. This mentality explains why so many companies struggle to get their employees to share ideas and resources. The win/lose mindset doesn’t easily turn itself off when you’re dealing with co-workers.

Collaboration brings holistic energy to the work of the team, and supports you as the leader. Instead of you trying to figure everything out on your own, wasting precious time and energy, consider working with your team members to become more well-rounded, all-inclusive, and whole. Encourage and teach them to be creative and flexible, to take initiative in problem solving, to think for themselves, and to contribute to the big picture. Respect the diversity of your teammates and leverage the power of teaming together.

Using the Comfluential model that encourages collaboration, you could be increasing your productivity and experiencing better outcomes. Doesn’t that just boost your hope quotient on what is possible? 

As we continue through this pandemic — and what the “workplace” will look like after the pandemic — we need to work from a collaborative perspective. Building collaboration into your team and organization is Comfluential Leadership!

Linda Patten is a Leadership Trainer for women entrepreneurs and change-makers. Her vision for every woman is to become the natural leader she is meant to be, through teaching an empowering mindset, masculine AND feminine leadership skills, and how to activate a vision into a full-bodied business or social change movement.

For opportunities to awaken and empower the leader within you, please visit Dare2LeadwithLinda.