The Art of Collaboration
At a time when more organizations are looking to combine resources through collaborative efforts either internally or externally, an executive director I’d been working with declared, “Collaborations, partnerships, mergers or anything else my board of directors could think of will not happen.”
Basing her opinion on personal experience, she simply felt that they were a waste of time that amounted to little else but endless meetings with little agreement or result. It wasn’t that she was against working with others who have a common interest — to the contrary; she recognized the potential benefits of such relationships, but had not found a way to make them work.
Her sentiment is a familiar one to many managers who have attempted to collaborate with outside organizations or internally with other departments or colleagues, only to have it progress nowhere. It can leave everyone involved feeling as though the best solution is to avoid any attempt at collaboration altogether.
But this “solution” is usually not an option, so everyone goes through the motions and plays the game, all the while thinking how they have no control over the direction and outcome of the venture. The feeling is one of helplessness that eventually sabotages any excitement that might have originally existed for the collaborative effort.
There’s no denying that collaborations are a challenge because they require the coming together of distinct parties who have their own thoughts, habits and operating procedures. The challenge only becomes that much greater if the participants didn’t come together voluntarily or are feeling negative and predicting failure.
But if any collaboration is going to succeed, someone has to be willing to give it a chance. No one party can forcefully control what the other participants in the process will contribute, but you can take control of your own contribution and be a leader whose actions are influential and inspiring rather than hampering. Here are six steps you can use as a guide to make your participation in collaborations more meaningful: