I recently met my Actionable co-workers in person for the first time at our annual staff retreat. I’ve never attended such an event, so I anticipated only one thing: to leave the retreat with a to-do list as long as my arm (and I did). What I didn’t anticipate was that I would complete the four days of meetings feeling assured that I am a member of a close-knit team that truly feels like a family.

This sense of cohesion is remarkable considering how different each of us are on the team. Apart from the obvious differences—our age, location, taste in music, etc.—we all have things that matter most to us in our day-to-day lives, which are enabled by our results only work environment. Family and friends, freelance work and side projects, our mid-morning workout classes—we are all able to take advantage of our virtual work environment to prioritize these things. Our work with Actionable fits into our days differently, yet we are still a unified team.

What makes us a cohesive, collaborative team is our respect for each others’ unique lifestyles, expertise, time zones, and leadership. We work together, never against or in spite of each other.

Where we differ most greatly (and obviously) is in our positions within the company. Based on our skills, educations, interests, and abilities, we were each assigned a role with a specific set of responsibilities. The beauty of working with such a close-knit team is that we are all able to communicate and collaborate with people outside of our roles and departments on a daily basis, and thus collaboration and asking questions becomes a lot more interesting. We are able to both acknowledge our differences and use them to our advantage.

A part of valuing each other’s differences is understanding who is the best person to get something done—whether it is because they possess the right skills, the right knowledge, or are simply enthusiastic and excited about the idea. We are currently working on assigning responsibility for a task or project to one person—as a result of the growth of the company, it no longer makes sense for the team to be all-in on every single project. In most cases, it makes sense for one person to take the lead and establish firm actions leading up to a deadline. This eliminates confusion, and creates better results. By keeping the entire team informed about what we’re working on, and our projected timelines, we create opportunities for collaboration across departments.

At the retreat I also learned that the Actionable team has some personality traits in common. Each team member embodies our company values, which manifest in a number of ways. For example, none of us takes ourselves too seriously, and we all have a sense of humor. We feel comfortable integrating jokes and personal anecdotes into our work conversations, and we can always bring our authentic selves to work. This makes for both a productive and enjoyable experience.

On a more serious note—we also like to disrupt, challenge, and push back on ideas, to ensure that we are always working effectively.

I came to Actionable looking for a place where I could ask questions—I was delighted to discover that Actionable is a team of questioners like myself. When I ask questions of my coworkers, they either provide me with an answer that leads to a direct solution, or they join in the questioning and we collaborate.

This ability to ask questions is a critical similarity that we all share, and one that I am particularly proud of. Each team member has the authority to implement change, and the group is always willing and ready to provide input.

Though one person may be assigned responsibility for a project, and certain people possess the ideal skills to get it done, it is important to get a wide variety of input into each project. At the retreat, there were several moments when the perspective of a new team member was instrumental in solving a problem—they were able to approach the issue with fresh eyes. Actionable’s collaborative culture makes this kind of insight possible: new team members feel safe voicing their ideas (they aren’t worried about asking a “stupid” question, or proposing an idea that someone had attempted previously), and were able to contribute some fantastic solutions.

In a nutshell, what I learned from my experience at the Actionable staff retreat was that our individual strengths may vary, but our strength as a team is very much influenced by our individualities. We can create a sum far greater than our individual parts. We respect and appreciate each other’s differences, and as such, we maintain the expression of our personalities and apply our unique skills and abilities while we work. At the end of the day, that is what makes us who we are. Productive. Collaborative. Better together.