Collaboration

Is it possible to accomplish anything worthwhile without some form of collaboration? I’ve been really thinking about this quite a bit lately because I’ve had conversations with some of my clients around collaboration. I’ve had a number of people who’ve said to me, ‘Gosh, you know it really is difficult to collaborate.’ If you think of your typical organisational environment, it’s actually very competitive. I’m trying to do something well so that I can get promoted compared to somebody else. We work in competitive environments, and I had one of my clients say to me in a senior team meeting, ‘Well, why should I collaborate with the person from Europe or the person from the Americas? In fact, if they don’t do well, all the better for me, because I look like a star. So, why should I share things with them?’ Which of course is a very valid question, isn’t it?

The point, though, that I keep struggling with, and as I keep challenging my client, is surely if you can share best practice, if you can actually share some things that’ve worked for you or you may be able to get ideas from there, that will of course make it easier? Again, that issue of how do we collaborate, how do we build trust and how do we build collaboration when there is so much competitiveness in the environment is a question.

There are a couple of things I want to suggest in relation to this topic. One is that to be collaborative, the first thing that’s required is the mindset. You’ve got to have the mindset of somebody who is collaborative or someone who can look at collaborating. Therefore, how do I think like someone who is a collaborator? That’s one. Second is seeking like-minded people, that is, people who value collaboration. There are people who, even though you may be competitive, you don’t have to collaborate on everything. Maybe there are some small projects you can collaborate on, and so perhaps start with a small project. Keep things small. Build the relationship, and of course build the trust. Once you finish that project, why not review what worked with that project? So, have a debriefing conversation. What worked? What didn’t work? What could we do differently? And then apply those to the next project.

I think if you do that, you will over time build some best practices or collaboration, but you’ll actually build a group of people around you that will help you in being successful. There is an old Swahili saying that says, ‘To go fast, go alone. But to go far, go with others.’ So my reflection point for you is how well do you collaborate? What’s your mindset towards collaboration? And what are you talking to your teams about when it comes to collaboration? Are you role modelling some collaborative practices?

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