In this resource we will look at how you can create a collaborative relationship that works for you and your colleagues.
Sometimes the biggest block to collaboration is the extent to which we make it easy for others to understand and engage with what it is we want to achieve. But making our wants and needs clear isn’t always easy and we sometimes hold back and choose not to pursue what we want because it’s either easier, safer or both.
Achieving effective and genuine collaboration is possible though if we adopt a set of straightforward principles; they are:
These steps help us to be more courageous in asking for what we want and setting up a healthy collaboration partnership.
Be clear about what you want to achieve
This sounds easy enough, but I’ve often found when resolving collaboration conflicts that the initiating person or group can’t clearly articulate what it is they want to achieve in the first place! Many times I’ve found that resistance to collaborate exists around this very basic issue. Think of this way. When it comes to seeking collaboration, what you are really seeking is that they contribute something towards achieving an objective. Skills, knowledge, experience or time, it doesn’t matter; most people are reluctant to give up anything, or change the way they do something, without knowing why they are doing it or what’s in it for them. So this first principle is about stripping away any ambiguity and being clear about:
At the very least, be clear on ‘what’ you want to achieve and remember if you can’t explain it, they won’t get it – and neither will you!
Be prepared to let go
You want people to embrace your reason for collaboration irrespective of their bias when it comes to organisational politics or their different schools of thought. Many people have learnt the hard way that trying to appeal to all the different perspectives that exist is an instant killer of collaboration. This is because the focus falls immediately to addressing different perceptions, which can only ever really be effective at a superficial level. If this is happening then it’s also likely that this is how you are thinking about the reason for collaboration. Underpinning all this is the most serious issue – and that is that you cannot control what other people think or perceive.
So what’s the answer? Let go!
Communicate for collaboration
Don’t just think about ‘what’ you have to say - the way you say it is equally important. Use language that encourages inclusivity and reinforces collaboration at every turn; words and phrases such as:
A collaborative relationship can be undone before it even begins if there is no consistency between saying that you want to collaborate and then using a whole stack of “I” statements. Your language needs to match your actions and intent. So be conscious of the congruency between the way you are thinking about the need for collaboration, the words you use to influence others to get involved and the extent to which you are actually behaving collaboratively yourself.
Collaboration is achievable; but it’s also important to set both you and your collaboration partners up for success from the very beginning. And if you were to only practice these three steps, then you’d go a long way to achieving a win-win outcome, based on a collaborative start.
After reading this, what do you think is the most important aspect of collaboration?