Throughout almost a decade of experience in the modern workplace, I've learned a lot about myself as an employee and a creator and, in turn, others as employees and creators.
Working cooperatively on a large creative project is not always easy, or simple. It's often not either of those things, not least because of the complications inherent in multiple disparate personalities joining together to make one collective thing.
As far as full-time work goes, I've worked at four different companies since graduating from college. They've ranged from a global, internationally headquartered publishing company to a 20-person single-office boutique advertising agency. Universally, across all milieus of work, I've narrowed in on three characteristics that make someone great to work with.
- Positivity. There are few things worse than a negative attitude when it comes to collaborative creative work. Predisposition to shoot ideas down makes everyone else on the team feel creatively stifled. A dampening spirit detracts from an environment in which everyone's brains can churn out profitable thought (think about how much more work you get done when you're in a good mood). And negativity engenders anxiety; when you have to work closely with Debbie Downer, you're constantly worried about whether she might deride your idea or question your effort unproductively.
- Accountability. In a constructive, fertile work environment, people do what they say they're going to do, when they said they were going to do it. The mental freedom associated with not having to set a reminder to follow up with someone has a hugely positive effect on your working relationship with that person. Rather than not being certain whether or not she or he's going to follow through, which snags in your mind and sits there like a subconscious unscratched itch until the delivery is made, you can journey on with your own work comfortably.
- Trustingness. On the flip side, having that trust returned is crucial. Whether it's by your boss or your colleagues, you want to be put on a very long leash. Micro-management is a recipe for utter disaster when it comes to creative teamwork. Freedom and space are essential ingredients in creating something awesome. And if everyone trusts each other, and of course has really earned that trust, there should be no reason not to give each other as much room as needed and desired.
I'm sure everyone has their own internal list of characteristics that make for ideal colleagues, but this is my top three. All three traits are ones that I have, and will continue to, focus my own energy on cultivating in myself.