Monday, April 30, 2012

The Etiquette of Collaboration

There is very little as important to being a human being as connecting with others. As a species, like most species, we depend on connecting for our very survival. Healthy connections are what make our lives fulfilling, successful, and enjoyable.
For most of us, our work life occupies about a third of our time, maybe even more. For those of us who have taken on the mantle of entrepreneur, the opportunities to connect with other likeminded folks abound. As a result, we discover that through collaboration, we can increase our efficiency, our abilities, and our profitability.
New Brunswick is a fertile ground for many small businesses that have discovered the numerous benefits of working together towards a common goal. Recently, I watched an interview with two of our most energetic and successful entrepreneurs, Dave Veale and Chris Nadeau. I am flattered to have been asked to comment on the etiquette needed to make such collaborations successful.
One of the most important factors required is the desire by all partners for all partners to succeed in ways impossible to achieve as individuals. This really means taking the position that one wants one’s new partners to succeed even more than themselves. This is one way to help ensure the project gets off the ground and soars.
Another factor required is awareness. In this fast-paced world, we can become easily distracted, even derailed from our focus. Our business seemingly runs itself. Since this is an impossibility, the more time we spend making conscious choices and being aware of the people and events taking place around us, the better positioned we are to succeed. Raising our awareness to the effect we have on everyone with whom we interact, and the effect they have on us, makes us able to understand and incorporate the next important piece of the puzzle.
We need to be grateful. The world of business is overflowing with people who seem to view the world from a position of entitlement. This negates the ability to be grateful. Gratitude is important because we feel understood and appreciated. We are contributors to the process. Without gratitude we take everything for granted, we show little if any respect for our colleagues, and we become isolated as a result – very counterproductive to the very essence of collaboration.
We must understand clearly that we are not entitled to anything without some fair exchange and that we do not simply deserve ‘stuff’. Deepak Chopra expressed the thought of gratitude succinctly when he stated, “If one feels like one deserves something, one cannot have gratitude for it.”
Another factor that I feel is essential to a successful collaboration is that of compassion. I speak and write about this subject regularly and yet people remain confused about turning this thought into action. Understanding that compassion is not so much about other people as it is about oneself makes implementing this action possible. Many of us equate compassion with pity or empathy. This is only a tiny part of the true meaning of the concept. It is important to maintain compassion for ourselves as well as those around us. If we are disposed to behave in a kindly manner we are better able to conduct business with a realistic perspective. We are human beings and in the world of business we can be aggressive to the point of delusion. The golden ring becomes the focus of our journey to the exclusion of the journey itself. We set impossible targets for ourselves, and find when we fall short of our goals that we instinctively lay blame on circumstances outside of our realm of responsibility. This is not the sign of a true leader, nor the sign of a good team player.
Finally, we need to take responsibility for what is ours and recognize through skillful discernment what is not. In other words, mind your own business. As part of any collaborative effort, responsibilities must be delegated with confidence and accountability. Yes, there is usually a point person, where the ‘buck stops’, but along the way, people must be encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, but not feel compelled to be in control of everything else too. We all know control freaks, office bullies, and know-it-alls; and collaborations are experiences in which these folks fail miserably.
If you are considering collaborating with someone on a project, you could be in for one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Few connections are as rewarding in business as working together with others to achieve a common goal. As with most things in life, if we follow the Golden Rule and use a bit of common sense, the sky’s the limit!