Last time I wrote about how collaboration is about you, or better said, how collaboration starts with you. There is a little nuance to that, as collaboration can not happen with only you and yourself. You need (a couple of) third parties to collaborate. So what does collaboration require from you, and especially from your mindset?

Here are four essential elements of a collaborative mindset:

We versus I
The article of last week carried a challenging title: “collaboration is all about you.” This is somewhat a misleading title, which you will understand when you read the article. Collaboration requires a “we” focused behavior rather than an “I” focused behavior.

People with an “I” focus will always look at their own benefit. However, when in a partnership, you will need to look for the synergy. When both parties win as a result of the collaboration, the total will be bigger than the sum of the parts. 1+1=3 and thus a “we” focus will help you look for the joint benefit that will leverage greater results in a partnership.

Sharing – information and outcome
In order to collaborate and thus create the 1+1=3 effect, you need to share and be transparent. The sharing of relevant information can be a multiplier for the joint synergy. By sharing, you are enabling your partner to increase their effectiveness in the collaboration. Now, if you are working in an organization with a high focus on intellectual property and the protection thereof, you need to be careful what to share and when. In that case, talk to your lawyer or IP specialist and make sure you have the right legal documents in place before you share the critical elements.

Sharing is not just about relevant information; you also need to share outcomes of actions and challenges proactively. When your partner knows what keeps you busy, they can help you find new solutions to your problems. Sometimes this already happens “automatically”, as your partner will ask questions for clarification when you are sharing the information.

Trust and have faith
Without trust, it will be hard to have a successful collaboration. It might be doable, but it will not be as easy and as rewarding as it will be with the right level of trust between the partners. Trust starts with you; trust in the other partner and trust in their capabilities. You need to have faith and give them the benefit of the doubt. Don’t think that they can’t do a particular task in the collaboration, but have faith that they will perform it well. In case of doubt, you can always guide them in doing the task. Helping each other out in difficult, or first time, situations, will increase trustworthiness between the partners.

Communicate frequently and openly
The three aforementioned elements will be diminished easily without frequent and open communication. When you keep the information for yourself on purpose, you are falling into the trap of “I versus We.” Also, never assume that your counterpart will do things and understand things the way you do. You need to communicate! If you have information that is critical for the collaboration, you need to communicate about it and share it. I would even suggest communicating about elements that might not be related to the cooperation at all. Not to overload your partner with information, but sharing of personal items increases your humanity factor and enhances trust.

You obviously understand the need for these elements in a partnership. In the rush of the daily tasks, the challenge is to actually live up to them. You might think that it is faster to do things yourself then leave them to the partner, or you might forget to communicate; as a result you might unintendedly harm the trust and act as if you are only focussed on yourself and your company.

So, how to embed these elements into your daily work?

You can set some triggers to remind you: write short reminders in your notepad or on a place that you often see. Also, you can challenge yourself with a few questions at the end of the day, like: “Did I focus sufficiently on my partner and on the collaborative results today?” and “Did I share the right information and did I communicate frequently and openly today?”

These questions will trigger you to evaluate the day and will make you aware of your performance. It will set you ready to improve a bit the next day. Remember, small steps make progress; if you only improve 1% every day you will have improved 365% in a year!


PS: The book “Triggers” by Marshall Goldsmith* is about how you can proactively set triggers to help your growth.