When we talk about collaboration in alliances, we often talk about procedures, tools, and best practices. To some extent, that is good. After all, research has shown that companies who follow a process in establishing their alliances have a higher chance of success than companies who create ad hoc partnerships.

Hence we tend to focus on the tangible stuff. Tools that can be used and procedures that can be followed. Tangible elements that can help us create successful alliances and partnerships. However, when focusing on the tangible stuff, there is an element that we might overlook: the soft stuff. After all, regardless what type of collaboration you are in, collaboration is between people!

Collaboration starts with building relationships and establishing trust. Based on these two pillars we can start to collaborate. As said, this is regardless of the type of collaboration. Both internal and external collaboration, as well as collaboration in teams and between individuals, they all start with relationship and trust.

Collaboration is easier when there is a collaborative culture in an organization. A culture where people focus on “we” versus “I” and understand what win/win/win entails.

For such a culture we need to pursue the ABCD model actively:

  • A: We need to promote the right Attitudes, both internally within the business and externally with the partners.
  • B: From the right attitudes, we need to emphasize the right Behaviors with people where they behave in a collaborative and partner-centric manner,
  • C: which leads to creating the right Culture, as having the right partnering culture is critically important to driving success.
  • The D actually comes before the A: ensure that the right level of Dialogue is maintained with all parties.

Don’t think that this would be just nice to have and that your organization is different. Following such a model and driving an enhanced collaborative culture within your organization starts with you. After all, it comes down to taking ownership. You can lead by keeping the dialogue open, driving the right attitudes and behaviors which will influence a truly collaborative culture.

So, it starts with dialogue. You won’t find that in the procedures and tools on the tangible side of collaboration. Thus we are back on the soft side of collaboration. It isn’t difficult: start simple, with just one conscious dialogue each working day. Everyone can do that if needed set some triggers * to remind you of this new workday habit. And remember: that leads up to 260 dialogues a year!

Continue by reading this article by Marshall Goldsmith: People Skills, about why behavioral issues are so important in upper management.