How often have you started a collaboration with other people, enthusiastic and hopeful for great results and in the end you found yourself disappointed?
Was it lack of reciprocity, hidden agendas, unplanned changes on the way? The list might go on and on.
What did this disappointment cause in you? What effect did it have on the long run?
Each time we decide to invest our energies in something new and appealing we are not only signing for success but with the same probability we are signing for failure. We tend to look past at failed collaborations, it hurts when you focus on them and it`s human nature to avoid experiencing these feelings. What usually happens is that we aim to find responsibilities in other people instead of getting our own lessons from this experience. What did you learn about yourself from this failed collaboration? How will you do better next time? What are the red flags that you shouldn`t ignore in future projects?
We have to collaborate every single day of our lives, whether it is with our family members, our social circle or professional network we can`t avoid doing things that demand collaboration. Identifying the must haves of a successful collaboration is extremely important and it is also very complex as it takes time and experience to find out what works for you. On the other hand, a better starting point for this path to becoming great at collaboration is the identification of “Red flags”, what are those signals that set the stage for an unsuccessful collaboration?
1- Unclear Purpose
Yes we have worked to create a SMART goal, we have a well-defined strategy, we are clear on our roles and responsibilities but why isn`t it working out? There is something deeper and more powerful than a goal that holds the secret to a sustainable team work on the long run, it provides the kind of fuel that keeps you going through challenges and overcoming setbacks. The Team purpose is about the external impact that you as a team aim to create, it is not about personal benefits it is about a greater good. More than materialistic outcomes, it is about the inner fulfillment, it is about a cause that stands by your heart and you as team share with each other. When you as team are not clear about the common purpose you have, it becomes more difficult and often impossible to achieve goals, because you are not using that inner fuel that comes from awareness of your purpose. Once you get on the same boat about the team purpose, you will see that facing challenges becomes a less painful struggle, because even when you don`t reach the immediate results you know that you are not alone, a common purpose provides support and persistence.
2- Conflicting Values
When working with a team I often prefer to start working with personal values before identifying the team values. It is normal for every team member to have different values, personal values are individual and they change from person to person. For a collaboration to be successful it doesn`t necessarily mean to share the same values, it means not to have conflicting values. What is important to me should not be in conflict with what is important to you.
By knowing each other before hands, identifying the must haves of each one, getting to know the limits and respecting them is a must to a successful collaboration. You should be clear and specific about your values and make sure that this collaboration is based on mutual understanding and previous agreements that protect what is important to you. This kind of awareness demands work and it is the kind of work that needs to be done upfront so that you won`t have any unpleasant surprises on the way.
3- Ego in the wheel
The moment you decide to collaborate with others you should detach from “your own way”, and “your merits”. If you feel the need to be validated then you are not ready to collaborate. You start a collaboration because you want to give and provide more opportunities and create bigger things than the ones you can create alone. When ego gets in the way you are no longer collaborating, you are diverting from a successful collaboration.
"There’s another study by Harvard University that suggests that everyone’s emotions are “contagious” since they affect those around them. This means that your cheerful mood – or your grumpy vibe – can spread throughout the team. Everyone and anyone in the team can create a positive or negative ripple-effect depending on their mood."- The Power of a Positive Team, Jon Gordon
4- Lack of trust
Trust is last in this list, not because it is the least important but because trust takes time to be created. Trust is not a goal, it is an outcome of intentional efforts. For a group of people working to create a meaningful result from their collaboration trust is the glue that keeps it together especially when the road becomes challenging and bumpy. Trust itself is manifested in the way people support each other, their communication style and the “hard truth” culture. Trust isn`t created from obedient soldiers, a team that demands and accepts the hard truth at all costs is a team that is not scared to show vulnerabilities and work on them.
If you are lacking trust in this partnership, then you can search the above mentioned concepts to identify what is the cause. Are you unclear about you purpose? Do you have conflicting values or you are just not aware of personal values so that you keep challenging the other person`s values unconsciously? Do you feel a need to be validated or you perceive a need for validation from the other side? When you identify the cause you can start working on building trust, it takes time and effort and it is not always a successful journey but it needs to me be made in order to make sure that you are making the right decision to continue with the collaboration or to stop!
In my experience I have had more unsuccessful collaborations than successful ones. But, on the other hand this helped me sculpt my team player muscles while keeping my leadership authentic. I say it proudly that I am an expert in terms of unsuccessful collaborations because this helped me become better at creating successful collaborations. And one of the greatest lessons that I got while juggling to find my tribe is that having the courage to say NO is having the courage to not settling for less even when you have to risk it all in order to stand up for your values.