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Up, Down, Sideways and Out


Here’s a word I liked to see on resumes during my recruiting days: collaborate.  It’s a word that all women building careers should think about every day.

Employers like to hire and advance collaborators.  Think about it:  most companies do not have dictators at the top of their employee pyramid.  Some do sneak up there, but before too long they topple off.  Most successful professionals look for ways to build relationships, teams and cross-functional alliances.

When you consider how well you are collaborating, think about which directions you stretch toward.  To become a skilled collaborator do a four-point exercise:  up, down, sideways and out.

Most people spend a disproportionate amount of time on the “up” treadmill.   Everyone knows that if you collaborate well up the corporate ladder you can get lots of attention, kudos and opportunities to advance.  But remember that people at the top of organizations see more people below than above their perch.  Heads of organizations get to the top because they do a great job of directing, motivating and collaborating with colleagues and peers.

The next time you’re in your office, mix it up and do the down doggie first.  Don’t get mired in mundane details, but find a few key administrators who have the ability to enhance process and procedures.  Help administrators think through a big change that would help your company, team or department run more smoothly and efficiently.  It’s good to know the way businesses work:  any down exercise flexes your operational knowledge and strength.

Then move on to sideways repetitions.  Peer collaboration is the muscle of corporate leaders.  Look both within and outside your department to see where you can lend a hand.  Before you say, “I can barely do my own job”, remember that the sharing of ideas, best practices and instructive failures could actually help you do your job faster and better.

And finally stretch and lengthen through the “out” exercise.  Reach out beyond your day-to-day colleagues and find a way to collaborate with peer companies, professional organizations, women’s groups—any outside community that provides a compelling give and take and a fresh perspective on work that can become myopic and routine.   Don’t just attend meetings—collaborate on committees, panels and leadership teams.

And again:  Up. Down. Sideways. Out.  Do these collaborative exercises at least once a week and you’ll be fit to climb the ladder of success.

About the Author

Kathryn Sollmann is the Managing Partner and Founder of 9 Lives for Women, a highly acclaimed, multi-channel blog site that helps women navigate work and life in nine stages from college through retirement years.