Five Traits of a Great Project Manager: #4 – Collaborator

The strength of a team lies in leveraging the expertise of all its members instead of one solitary individual. As a project manager, you are responsible for managing relationships with your project team, stakeholders and the sponsor. Working with such a diverse group of individuals requires openness to sharing ideas and solutions, which leads me to the fourth trait of a great project manager:

Trait #4: Great project managers are collaborators.

What is collaboration?
Collaboration is defined as the action of working with someone else in order to create something or produce something. Simply put, collaboration involves individuals working together to a common purpose to achieve a business goal or benefit. Collaboration is more than playing nice in the sandbox. Collaboration empowers the team and the project stakeholder by leveraging their expertise to achieve the project objectives. A collaborative project manager knows it’s not all about them.

Collaboration can positively impact projects in many ways:

Increased productivity among team members. Collaboration encourages your team to share their ideas, increasing the excitement and buy-in to the project. When a team member or project stakeholder presents an idea and you run with it, they take ownership and pride in the work. And they are open to submit more ideas.

Increased problem solving. When you collaborate, you put your heads together to devise the best solution to challenges as they happen.

Increased communication. By collectively sharing ideas for the project, this sets the stage for more frequent communications. Having learned from experience, you can never over-communicate on a project.

Builds relationships. Collaboration solidifies relationships among stakeholders. Because you are communicating more often and disseminating ideas, bonds form. Sharing and implementing ideas together fosters respect and accountability among the team and project stakeholders.

Scenario: Collaboration
Over the last few weeks, you’ve been putting out a lot of fires on the project—especially for issues that could have been detected and addressed much sooner. While team members come to you with solutions to the problems, much of the efforts are reactive. As you comb through your project documents for risk management strategy, you realize your risk management strategy is lackluster. There were no discussions beyond what was documented at a high level in the project charter.You contact your former colleague who is working on an agile project and you remember she talked about addressing risks in a proactive manner and she responds to your email with the following subject line:

Friend or Foe?


After spending two hours in your brainstorming session with the Alpha project team and some key stakeholders, you are pleased with the comprehensive list of threats and opportunities that the group came up with that could impact the project. All that were involved in the meeting thought it was one of the most productive two hours they’ve spent in a meeting. In fact, one of the stakeholders asked if they could be a part of more meetings like that in the future.

You return to your office to create a risk register with the latest results from your brainstorming session. Fifteen minutes into your task, you get a phone call from the sponsor:

“Hey, this is Chuck. I just had three people stop by my office to rave about your brainstorming session. They went on and on about this Friend or Foe exercise and found it to be one of the most collaborative experiences. If you’re free right now, come see me. I’d like to learn more about the exercise and in general how we can be more agile.”

Developing the skill
Collaboration enables you to capitalize on the impact your team can make as a whole, instead of singularly. Would you rather share ideas and problem solve as a team, or bear the responsibility of it all yourself? Collaboration not only allows your team to share ideas, it builds their confidence and gives them more stake in your project. How can you develop your collaboration skills to enhance your project?

Clear communication. When collaborating, be specific in defining everyone’s role in the process. While collaboration is empowering, you do want to give your team direction on what is expected of them in their collaborative role. Team charters are great for providing guidelines.

Consensus. The power of collaboration is respecting everyone’s feedback and ideas. Therefore, it’s extremely important that you do not move forward in the project without all team members in agreement.

Give credit where credit is due. If one of your team members comes up with a fantastic idea and you act on it, give them credit. Recognize the contribution they’ve made to the project.

Group goals over individual goals. Collaboration is all about supporting the team as a whole. Set goals based on the accomplishments and progression as a collaborative team. There’s no I in team. Yes, I just said that.

Give and accept grace. We are all human, which means what? We make mistakes. Own your mistakes when they happen and extend grace to your team when they make them, because they will. Take the opportunity to learn from your mistakes, but don’t linger on them. Move forward as a team to accomplish the project objective.

Doable, right? When collaborating, just remember to take your eyes off yourself and put it on others. Let your team shine. Share ideas openly, build relationships, give grace where it’s needed and work together.

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” – Ken Blanchard

What are your thoughts on this trait? Please share your comments.
If you’d like to learn how to develop your skills as a collaborator, ask me about my PM TALENT program.

Resources:https://www.thebalancecareers.com/collaboration-skills-with-examples-2059686https://www.projectmanager.com/blog/what-is-project-collaborationhttps://www.aiim.org/What-is-Collaboration#https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/collaborative-games-agile-risk-management-5973

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