James Hyndman

Developing and building collaborative relationships


Collaboration within an organisation is key to rapid growth and continual success. Being able to foster and nurture collaboration from the executive level can help you drive innovation, improve employee retention, and problem solve more quickly and successfully. What are the secrets to developing and building collaborative relationships?

Purpose

Each collaboration should be designed, and team members selected, to address a specific problem, typically one that has resisted a conventional approach. Simply putting various people together and saying “collaborate in your respective roles to support one another” won’t work. Identify a common goal and appoint the right people for the task. Don’t hesitate to combine different skill sets and levels of experience. Steady but less innovative workers can provide stability and learn from more creative but less grounded colleagues thanks to the spillover effect.

Support

Senior executives must buy in to the idea of collaboration in order for it to work. Collaborative relationships can only thrive in an environment that allows for flexibility and experimentation as well as distributed governance and decision making, and team members must be allowed some measure of control over resource allocation and deployment. This may mean developing the competency to run a virtual team, if the right people for the task at hand aren’t located in the same office.

Team members should be allowed some measure of control over resource allocation and deployment. Team members should be allowed some measure of control over resource allocation and deployment.

Policy

Accepted norms of governance and management can make it difficult to implement collaborative relationships, because they can be perceived as counter-cultural. Establish policies that foster outward looking attitudes based on trial and error to find solutions, instead of inward facing loyalties that can lead to blind spots. Collaboration and leadership can coexist, but this may take some adaptation on the part of executives who are hesitant when it comes to delegation.

Communication

The key to sustaining successful collaborative relationships is communication. There must be transparency and a reciprocal flow of information in all directions. This means everyone involved, from stakeholders to partner organisations and workers on the front lines must be given a voice. Authority cannot simply drive downwards from the top. A collaborative relationship means shared ownership of the process and results.

Once a collaborative relationship has begun, executives must be patient. Evidence of impact can take time, and a considerable investment of effort as well. However, this form of problem solving can deliver significantly measurable demonstrations of impact if sustained over a sufficiently lengthy time period. Collaboration is not a universal solution, but collaborative relationships should be universal within your organisation.