Why do we look so happy in these pictures? Lena and I are collaborators in the truest sense, both about our shared work and about our “professional fitness.” Our collaboration has been a boon to both our careers and a genuine personal pleasure.

How did we build such a great collaboration? We started as project managers at CDL on the same day and instantly recognized the benefits of working together. Even though we differ in our personalities, backgrounds, career arcs, and goals, we are both drivers and planners — restless people who are always looking for the next step. We are kindred spirits.

What are the 5 Tips for Successful Collaboration?

1. Build Trust: We are not competing with each other. We both believe there is enough good work for good performers — abundance, not scarcity. So we can coach, cheer-lead, and gently correct each other for continuous improvement without worry.

2. Match Complementary Skills: When we have a shared project, we quickly determine what skills are needed and who has them. We divide up the work based on what we do best. We joke about labeling our work with our “L&L brand,” but what we mean is that our work is really a shared effort and that we can do better work together than we can do separately.

3. Teach and Learn: The person with the skills becomes the teacher. The one who needs the skills learns them.

4. Make a Plan: So what’s this “professional fitness” about? We each lay out our professional development goals for the year, with tasks for each month. We talk about what we want to accomplish and what help we need to get there.

5. Celebrate the Partnership: Share Jokes! Share Treats! Share Lunch! Share Trust! We are mindful of our good fortune in finding each other.

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” — George Bernard Shaw

Now it’s Your Turn

Find a career development partner, someone you can trust. Discuss where you want to be in 12 months. Start developing your plan. Share it with your partner.

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