“It is the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” —Charles Darwin
Business people are often caricatured as hard-nosed, competitive and single-minded – their mantra “my way or the high way”. But the truth is, this stereotype is not accurate and all organisations are waking up to the fact that to survive, let alone flourish, collaboration strategies are crucial for success.
Collaboration can positively impact in a number of dimensions. Below is a checklist of just a few of the possible choices:
So what to do if you want to collaborate?
7 Steps to Collaboration!
1. Articulate why you want to collaborate and consider whether this could be achieved through other approaches. What is your key driver: Cost reduction? New customers? Innovation?
2. Identify the potential partner(s) and research them. Are they really the right ones for you? Do they have the capabilities you require? Could you work with them?
3. Approach them direct or through a trusted adviser at the right level and identify whether they are keen to talk more. At this point you should be careful about giving too much information away but also you need to generate sufficient rapport. Remember most collaboration breaks down at this stage through a lack of trust.
4. Identify an agenda of areas you can discuss. You might want to agree confidentiality arrangements.
5. Agree a timetable and approach. You don’t need to go the whole hog…why not build trust through piloting an approach? There are a whole range of collaboration options from preferred partner status to full mergers. Consider what approach will suit you both.
6. Even for limited collaborations it is important to document the agreement, considering areas such as:
· Purpose and objectives of the collaboration.
· Key targets.
· Escalation routes.
· Review and termination dates.
· Allocation of costs and revenue.
· Ownership of intellectual property and assets.
7. Have regular reviews to discuss progress – remember Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Reaching out beyond our own world is a business skill.
Possessing the confidence and poise to talk to anyone is a capability we all yearn for but when asked, most believe they do not have it. For many, the fear of rejection, of looking “silly” or betraying their inner failings to the outside world is too big a barrier to overcome and they take the alternative option to retreat to indirect approaches: email messages, social media, marketing campaigns….
Quite by accident, on a train journey, I met a man once who I can only say was blessed with a quiet self confidence that was immediately impressive. He asked me about the book I was reading and took time to ask me about myself and, it seemed to me, was actively interested in my plans and aspirations. He gave me a few tips and insights which I wrote down and he made a useful suggestion of someone I should talk to.
Stupidly, I did nothing, until weeks later I found the notes I had written and the details of the suggested contact. I made contact with the person and followed up with an exceptional meeting which saved me many hours of fruitless effort. Whilst packing up to go, I asked this new contact, about our mutual friend. “Yes, I asked him once how he was so well connected”, he said, “and his response to me was Hebrews 13:2 – it was helpful to me and it might be to you, you should look it up”.
Now although I have had a privileged education my knowledge of the Bible was, shall we say, inconsistent. Hebrews 13:2. Getting home that night, I found a battered copy of the Bible and looked up the chapter. It said “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares”.
People often talk about making their own luck through doing the right things.
The lesson I drew from Hebrews 13:2 is that I had to be more welcoming and connected with my fellow man. I realised that only through conservation do we make the connections that can be invaluable to our business careers and the achievement of our aims.
Conversation, uniquely, creates bonds, responsibilities and emotions that prompt action.
Now social media is a wonderful thing, but you can’t look into the eyes of a facebook friend, linked in connection or twitter contact and know whether they want you to be successful, will honour their promises or empathise with your situation.
So what to do?
Practice each day by making a new connection, real ones not social media ones and develop conversations. Who knows? That new relationship may have been entertained by angels unawares.
Top tips on how to develop rapport with strangers
Chris Lorimer is an
experienced management consultant who has helped many owners, Directors and staff to achieve more.