How to work better with colleagues


5 min read

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Ick. Corny teamwork quotes like this are sprayed around the web all the time. We’ve all seen them – maybe you’ve even shared one or two yourself?!

But when it comes to working better with your colleagues, quotes like this aren’t going to cut it. You need to start thinking about teamwork as a skill you can master.

Where do you start with teamwork?

Like a lot of things, learning how to work better with colleagues starts with the right mindset.

Here’s what you need to do:

Change your mindset from “me” to “we”.

But what exactly does that mean and how do you do it?

Let’s dive in.


What is an Inward vs Outward mindset?

An important skill for successfully working with your colleagues is the ability to shift your thinking from an inward mindset to an outward mindset.

This idea of two distinct mindsets isn’t new – it’s the work of scholar Dr. C. Terry Warner in 1979. But it’s a powerful concept that has helped people and organisations for decades.

What is an inward mindset?

An inward mindset is “me” focused. It means you think mainly about your own needs and wants without considering other people all that much.

What is an outward mindset?

An outward mindset is the opposite – it is “we” focused.

When you have an outward mindset, the goals of others are important to you. You focus on group objectives and make decisions based on what’s good for everyone involved. You actually enjoy being part of something bigger than yourself.

Here’s another way of thinking about it. In the TEDx Talk, ‘Teamwork Reimagined’, by Kevin Cahill – Executive Director of The W. Edwards Deming Institute, he shares two different types of thinking within teams:

  1. “Me” thinking: When one or several individuals are more concerned with their own success than that of the team
  2. “We” thinking: When all team members share a common motivation or goal.

Take a look at these examples of “me” and “we” mindsets in the workplace.

When you have a “me” mindset:

  • You see other people as vehicles to achieve your own goals, or obstacles that are in your way, or something irrelevant you can just ignore
  • You achieve your personal goals without considering how they will impact others
  • You forget to check in with the people you work with
  • You are inclined to blame others for your own failures or frustrations with your team.

When you have a “we” mindset:

  • You see other people as individuals who have their own needs, challenges, and goals
  • You willingly share information and resources with others
  • You achieve your personal responsibilities in a way that supports other members of your team to achieve their responsibilities
  • You check with your team before doing something that will affect them
  • You enjoy collaborating, and when others disagree with you, you carefully consider their suggestions.

Do any of these sound familiar?


How to change your mindset

Being able to make this shift from an inward to outward mindset is one of the biggest challenges you’ll have in the workplace. It might seem like a no-brainer, but the human brain is a tricky thing. It needs repeated practice to make a change.

That might sound like a lot of hard work, but here’s the thing – your success depends on it.

If you can successfully make the shift, you will be able to work better with your colleagues and achieve more in your career. It’s worth the investment.

So, how do you adopt an outward mindset?

The reality is people are not born with the ability to have an outward mindset; it is a learnt behaviour.

The good news? This means you’re not stuck with an inward mindset.

The first thing you need to do is be honest about your current mindset.

Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Do I quickly dismiss my friends’ ideas without fully considering them?
  2. Do I immediately assume my ways are better than anyone else’s?
  3. Do I always need my own wishes fully met before saying yes to something?

If you said yes to any of those questions, you’re experiencing an inward mindset. Don’t worry, you’re not alone – according to Michael Lazan from the Arbinger Institute, most of us are much more inward than we would’ve guessed.

The most important thing is that you now know that you need to shift the balance to an outward mindset.

Next you need to make some simple but important changes to your daily acts:

  • Pay attention: Stop and think about how you’re acting in different work situations. Try to identify situations when you’re not applying an outward mindset, so you can make small changes every day.
    Listen to understand: Make an effort to listen more when discussing views with your friends and colleagues. This means not focusing on what you want to say, your own ideas and whether or not you’re right.
  • Be kind to yourself: Don’t expect a 100% outward mindset all of the time. It’s not always possible, and that’s okay. Simply try to get a good balance so you can work better with your colleagues.


Over to you

As former US president Harry S Truman said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” If you can master a “we” mindset – most of the time – you can achieve more at work and ultimately, in your career. We’re not saying it will be easy to make the shift, but start now with some small changes, then practice, practice, practice.

Learn more practical skills to work better with colleagues by starting your human skills learning journey for FREE with Hodie app, today!