Multi-lingual Collaboration

Published: April 18, 2017

A key driver of effective collaboration is customization. After a careful assessment of strengths, we tailor our relationships to create a language unique to each connection. Every partnership adjusts to accommodate the nuances of personality, history, perception, and psychological wellness. Try this path to enhance team communication.

Every teammate listens and responds through their own filter. The complexity grows when you add a little stress to the environment. Customizing a relationship requires a clinical approach. Follow this sequence to learn your partners’ language and see the world through their eyes:


Lower your guard to enable vulnerability. Let your teammate see past your veneer if you’d like to see past theirs. Communicate the genuine desire to share an alliance by practicing openness and transparency.


Explore and discover the uniqueness of your new ally. Listen to his or her narrative to seek an understanding of perspective. Ask yourself what would have to be true about their history to make their thoughts, feelings, and actions make sense.


Define the scope of your collaboration. Ask your teammate what he or she needs most from you to be successful. Be willing to have the same question asked of you. Establish clear ground rules, communication norms, and goals.


Support respect and accountability by practicing interactions that are true to your engagement, assessment, and planning. Attend to glitches before they take root when things veer off course. Allow the relationship to evolve through the natural stages of investment, trust, growth, and change.


Step back to re-assess quality and direction. Regularly ask your teammates, “How are we doing?” even if the answer is, “Fine, why do you ask?” At some point, the answer will be, “Well…since you asked…” and you’d rather make that course correction early than late.

Engage, assess, plan, act, evaluate. Repeat this cycle for the lifespan of the relationship to maximize collaboration and communication. The best connections are multi-lingual with your partner’s language being the one you learn to speak.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.