Competency B: Communicate and Collaborate Effectively and Appropriately

I have been honing my communication and collaboration skills through my 22 (!) years of school and throughout my working life. As a writer, as a presenter, as a responsible team member, I strive to be consistent and considerate of those with whom I communicate, knowing that their perspective may be different from my own. I always consider my audience and my purpose when I am working on a text or writing an email, and I weigh the professionalism or familiarity of my language, the fullness of my explanations, and the simplicity or complexity of my ideas.

In my first year at Career Services, I wrote a blog series called, “Confessions of a Career Changer“, highlighting my own career path and relating it to Krumboltz’s (2009) Theory of Planned Happenstance by telling the story of the many twists and turns I made. I imagined my audience as students, many of whom have trouble making choices in college about their career because they see those choices as limiting what the rest of their lives will look like. Therefore, I used a friendly, casual, and supportive tone to appeal to students and encourage them in their lifelong search. This year, I periodically write for the blog and recently wrote a piece on why employers are looking for employees with emotional intelligence. Again, I thought of my audience as students who may not be familiar with the concept of emotional intelligence, so I began by explaining what it is and then relating it to why it would be useful on the job. This piece has received some recognition in the Oregon blogosphere, with other blogs citing it and connecting back to me. Maintaining high standards in all my writing, I work to connect with my audience through various techniques so that they are engaged and informed.

Besides formal written communication, I strive to be clear and professional in all my internal and external communication by email and phone, so that miscommunications and misunderstandings don’t happen. I am cognizant of cultural and linguistic diversity from department to department, institution to institution, and person to person, so my goal is to assume nothing in collaboration with others in terms of prior knowledge or perspectives. However, I do try to gauge when a colleague will share my level of understanding on a particular topic so that I do not insult them with information or background that is too basic.

As a collaborator, I listen first and add my thoughts only when I feel they will move the conversation forward, not in circles. I have worked with people throughout my life who talk simply to hear themselves sound intelligent or important, and I do not want to be one of those people. So, I wait and think and listen and analyze before I jump in with my ideas. One team project that I found to be particularly successful was a leadership development curriculum that Hilary Martin Himan and I developed for AHE 599, Student Leadership & Organizational Development. We communicated by text, email, and through Google Docs instant messaging so that we could speak about the project in real time while working on it without being in the same physical space. Using all the technology at our disposal, we found ways to work together well, sharing ideas and experimenting.

Communication and collaboration skills are essential to any vocation that involves working with others, and there are few professions where the majority of the activities are done alone. These are skills I will continue to practice and hone every single day of my working life, as well as in my personal life with friends and family. I think it is most important to treat others with respect and dignity in all my communications, even when I disagree with them, and keep all involved in a project or a program informed at every step of the way. When folks are left out of the loop, they can end up feeling uninvolved and disconnected from the work and may stop moving toward progress. I will mess up sometimes when it comes to communicating and collaborating effectively with others, and I doubt I will ever be a full-proof, expert communicator, but I can strive to make each interaction I have with another person positive and productive.

6 Responses to “Competency B: Communicate and Collaborate Effectively and Appropriately”

  1. Melissa Yamamoto says:

    Be sure to cite the Krumboltz theory with the year it was developed.

  2. Melissa Yamamoto says:

    Has there been anything in particular from your CSSA educational experience that has impacted your communication and collaboration approaches?

    • I think the biggest impact in communication and collaboration from the CSSA program has been in supervising student workers. I had never supervised others before, and I was floundering a bit a first, trying to maintain both a professionalism and caring relationships with them, to act as a supervisor and a mentor and a friend. I just needed some practice, trying out strategies, talking them over with my supervisor, and implementing new forms of communication through various means. Also, just getting a handle on my own supervisory style was important.
      The other thing I’ve learned is that writing text with others can be fun, and I’ve always found it difficult. I think the technology available that allows different people to work on the same text at the same time from different locations and chat about changes has revolutionized the way I think about writing with others. In the past, I usually wrote the bulk of a text because of my writing experience and expertise, even if it was a group project. But with this technology, like Google Docs, I can write or edit or comment on someone’s writing easily and we can truly work on it together.

  3. Anne Lapour says:

    Great examples of your written communication, which is obviously a strength. I’d love another example of how you’ve adapted in communicating orally? For example…given your interest in advising, I would be really interested to hear how you might navigate communicating with someone unfamiliar with academic/university jargon. For example, in working with a first-generation college student? How does your communication style differ from working with a 3rd-year graduate student? Or does it? How might it change with parents, with whom you may need to connect in an advising role?

    • I don’t know that I’m all that conscious of the alterations I make in my communication from one person to another, but I definitely can hear myself shift. I think this is one reason why I always begin by listening, because I’m able to gather information that will inform the ways I communicate. This is something that comes pretty naturally to me and may be informed by my years in theatre. I examine my objective with each individual and then, based on what I know about them, try actions to achieve my objective. I also check in often as I’m speaking to make sure that they are with me and understanding. Varying my vocabulary, adjusting my depth of explanation, and employing varying amounts of humor and seriousness are all strategies I can employ to vary my communication style.

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