Training for Individual Skills versus Training for Collaboration Skills

by Frank Koehler

Training for members of top performing teams in corporations must focus on different hard and soft skills than training for individuals doing routine tasks. Here's why.

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Critical tasks that require a high synergy of expertise, the birthing of breakthrough ideas, and the total commitment of all team members to the same mission require communications, valuing, synergizing, and creativity skills that bear little or no resemblance to individual performance skills, and in some cases, are opposite in attitudes and behavior.


The training of individual skills is inappropriate, ineffective, and often counterproductive, when the objective is to improve the collaborative skills of those high potential employees selected to serve on elite teams.

The emotional, psychological, and interpersonal relationships of high potential team members working collaboratively on vital tasks is radically different and incomparably more complex than an individual employee performing mundane tasks within the safety net of a conventional job description.

Members of high performance teams must communicate openly and honestly in pursuit of the mission. This requires learning how to rise above the secretive, biased, guarded, manipulative, and self-serving communications so prevalent in the individual’s pursuit of a job description and career.


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Each team member must hold the other team members in high respect, viewing them as a source of ideas that may be crucial to the achievement of the mission. This requires another shift in perspective from seeing peers as competitors to seeing the other team members as vital contributors.

Team members must willingly carry their share of the load and enthusiastically help carry other team members’ share of the load when the situation calls for it.

The corporate impact of teams assigned to vital tasks requires that the team learn and apply collaboration skills experientially, not just academically. Team members make decisions collaboratively, take risks, implement actions, and experience consequences as an inextricable component of training. They learn the skills of collaboration by collaborating.

Collaboration, for most employees, especially those long entrenched in the typical corporate environment, is not a talent they have previously developed and it is not a skill learned by lecture. It must be learned experientially, in the trenches, on real tasks, with at-risk consequences, and under the developmental leadership of an encouraging and mentoring instructor.

When properly trained and empowered, collaboration is a cornerstone principle of human performance that can make innovation, high performance, and competitive advantage a normal and consistent component of corporate economic health.

Frank Koehler is an executive consultant specializing in crisis intervention, innovation, and rapid achievement of vital corporate objectives. He developed a non-combat adaptation of Military Special Forces as the vehicle for accomplishing extreme performance in those three areas. Visit his website at

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