A recent survey of CFOs by Robert Half found interacting with different personalities in other departments was one of the biggest challenges people face when trying to collaborate professionally.
Part of the problem may be a cultural issue, says Kathleen Downs, a vice president at Robert Half Finance & Accounting. When collaboration is a part of a company’s mission statement or values, it permeates every part of the organization, she says. A company that feels collaboration is important will include it as a hiring qualification and make it a factor in promotions and rewards.
Even if your company doesn’t have a strong culture of collaboration, learning to work with a wide variety of personalities across an organization is key to career success, Downs says. “In any job, you’re going to have to work with people,” and they’re all going to have different personalities. “It’s the job of everyone in the organization to collaborate and work together for a common vision so the customer gets the best it possibly can.”
Downs suggests administrative professionals take these steps to boost cross-departmental collaboration in their offices.
• Get to know your colleagues. People have more skills than they use at work, Downs says; learning about them can deepen work relationships and inspire people to bring those skills into the workplace. “People are put into a work role, but there’s a lot of talent and experience that they’re not using in their day-to-day job. When people understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses, they can speak to them when collaborating on a team.”
• Use your insider knowledge. Admins often have institutional knowledge others don’t and can use it to help build bridges on shared interests between departments and spot opportunities for collaboration on projects, Downs says. Much of an admin’s job is sharing information and coordinating with people from different parts of the organization anyway, and you can use that skill to improve team-building and collaboration between departments.
• Make it safe to speak. In a meeting of people from different departments and levels in the organization, some attendees may be afraid to speak up. It’s important to create an environment where everyone is comfortable sharing their thoughts. “People on a project need to have an equal voice,” Downs says.