Don’t Do It Alone

Rich Wilkerson Jr.

March 10, 2021
5 min read

In 1918, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching conducted an analysis of the engineering profession. They began by surveying a representative group of engineers about the most important factors for success in engineering. After receiving responses from 1,500 professionals, they were surprised to find that individuals in a highly technical profession ranked practical qualities—like “common sense, integrity, resourcefulness, initiative, tact, thoroughness, accuracy, efficiency, and understanding of men”—as equally or more important than technical competency in determining success. Of the additional 7,000 responses received in a follow-up survey, 94.5% of engineers ranked Character as the most important factor in job success, and an “equally decisive majority” ranked Technique as least important.

What does all of this mean for you and me over 100 years later? This research shows us that, even in a profession as technically rigorous as engineering, personal qualities are more important than technical ability in determining success. After finishing their study, the research group concluded that 85% of job success comes from interpersonal skills, leaving only 15% of success to technical knowledge and skill. What that means for you and me is that our ability to work well with others is absolutely essential to our effectiveness in life. If these findings are true professionally, they are certainly even more important in our personal lives.

You may recognize the name of the foundation that conducted the research. It was founded by Dale Carnegie, the man who taught us How to Win Friends and Influence People. The truth is, you are full of knowledge, talent, and skill. You have been born with innate gifts and abilities and you have taken time to develop them into skills and competencies. But the most important skills you will ever develop are people skills. Collaboration, the process of working with other people to achieve a goal, is a powerful force.

Here are three things collaboration does in our lives and work.

1. Collaboration Divides The Work

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

In modern times, we have placed a lot of emphasis on human potential. I love this trend. I firmly believe that there is more inside of each of us than we could ever imagine. God wants us to tap into that potential and achieve the fullness of all he’s calling us to accomplish. In our appreciation of our seemingly limitless capacity, however, we must never forget our human limitation. We can do more than we realize, but we can’t do everything. Without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we can do nothing. Without the help of others, we can do little. In collaboration, we can accomplish much.

At VOUS, one of our staff values is Work Together. If you were to spend some time around our team, you would inevitably hear this little phrase that sums up our philosophy of collaboration:  I'm not too proud to ask for help, and I'm not too busy to be of help. There is a lot of power in that simple phrase. We cannot allow our pride to prevent us from reaching out for help or offering support to the people around us. Failing to collaborate means denying ourselves the countless benefits we derive from working together.

The mission we’re taking on is too big for any of us to tackle alone. Collaboration is not a luxury, it is a necessity. It maximizes our strengths and diminishes our weaknesses. Here are some practical ways to grow in collaboration with the people in your life.

 

Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses

Find people who are good at what you’re bad at

Step outside of your primary team

Offer your gift, own your issues

Ask for help

2. Collaboration Multiplies The Output

“Collaboration is multiplication.” John Maxwell

Not only does collaboration divide the work, it multiplies the output. Don’t miss the key idea here: multiplication. Collaboration does not just add to our output, it multiplies it. You may have heard the familiar church phrase, “one can put 1,000 to flight, two can put 10,000 to flight.” That is not just a principle for prayer. It’s true of work, too. As we come together in collaboration, we see results far beyond what we could achieve in isolation.

If you ever witness an organization that is immensely productive—whether it is a business, church, or educational institution—you can be sure that the power of collaboration is at play. Organizations like this can baffle us. We can wonder how it’s possible to achieve those kinds of results.

 

What’s the secret of their success?

How could they accomplish so much in so little time?

What do they do that I don’t?

What do they have that I lack?

How could I possibly work any harder than I do now?

 

Maybe the answer is not to work harder. Maybe what you need is to discover new ways to step into collaboration. Invest in collaboration and reap dividends of productivity.

3. Collaboration Unifies The Team

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Helen Keller

 

If collaboration is so powerful, why is it not more common? Well, the reality of working with other people is that, while it produces enviable results, it comes at a cost. Collaboration produces friction. And friction is difficult to manage. Rather than deal with the messiness of friction, many people choose to shy away from joint effort. Yet a benefit of friction that is often overlooked is friction produces energy. Whether that energy is positive or negative is up to the team. Leaders see the opportunity to channel the energy of friction into positive outcomes. Friction can start a fire. Out of control, a fire can burn down your organization. Properly managed, a fire can warm it.

Yes, the determined individual can accomplish great things. But, to the unified team, almost nothing is impossible. I cannot overstate the power of unity. But unity starts with “u.” If your team, your church, your business, your family, is going to be unified, it is going to have to start with you. In collaborative effort, we tend to think first of what others should do. What they should fix. What they need to change. Effective teamwork requires us to reverse this tendency and ask, What can I do? Obsessing over what they need to change will make you bitter. Obsessing over what you need to change will make you better. Learn to step into collaboration and divide the work, multiply the output, and unify your team.

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