Collaboration is the new way to work. Walls are being removed and collaboration points are being designed into workplaces. However, collaboration is not new. It is being revived though. In a new world of extreme connectedness, collaboration is rising as a strategic and practical way to gain competitive advantage.

At the core of collaboration is trust. Trust needs to be evident in the relationships – how work is done, how words are spoken, and how the results are accounted for. Without trust, collaboration falls apart quickly and, sometimes, irreparably.

In Collaboration Trust

Four Trust Collaboration Principles

Since trust is so crucial, there needs to be a clear focus on how to protect it while letting it flourish fully. To foster trust, outlined below are four principles for effective collaboration.

Principle 1: Empathy must be evident in individual interactions.

Empathy is a funny word. It seems people take it as one of those “warm and fuzzy” things and, therefore, isn’t something real leaders should do. The reality is quite different. Empathy is just an act of experiencing something from another’s perspective. Yes, it can involve feelings. And, yes, it can include understanding another’s insights, concerns, and value. All of these are necessary when it comes to collaboration.

For collaboration to work well, all involved need to demonstrate empathy in the way we listen, talk, and act. Listening to really understand what another person is saying is the only way to find common points to leverage. Talking in a way to be understood and heard delivers the right tone for collaboration. Acting to ensure others are involved in a meaningful way and using their unique talents produces real collaborative results.

More than building trust, empathy makes trust active.

Principle 2: The group mission must be paramount above the individual objectives.

Self-interest plays a role in many interactions. It is a part of human nature, yet the really skillful leaders and team members know the role of self-interest and temper it when working for larger goals. There is a hierarchy of interests, especially when it comes to collaboration. The highest interest is the group’s mission and initiative. The work being done must be framed around what is best for the group and stakeholders, not the individual.

When self-interest is at the center, all breaks. Unbridled self-interests creates unbearable organizational politics. Competing self-interests creates confusion and slows progress. Overbearing self-interests diminishes how much others are willing to put into a mission or initiative. In these cases, collaboration is just a nice sounding word on a motivational poster hanging in an office. It is hiding real intent and misusing the talented people in a team and organization.

Although trust starts at an individual level, it also ends here. Trusted relationships focus on the higher mission and goals. Trusted relationships collaborate to move groups forward positively to achieve major initiatives and goals for the best of all stakeholders.

Principle 3: Interdependence will deliver the best results.

In the everyday workings of teams, the interdependent ones will accomplish more in a shorter time. It is about knowing everyone’s strengths and using them fully. We need to be dependent on others when they have the insight, talent, and capability to do an activity in the best way possible. A team dependent on another’s strengths creates a strong bond of interdependence.

At times, leaders seem to think it is all about being a strong, rugged, and independent person. This is how leadership is exhibited. It is untrue. The strongest leaders are the interdependent ones. The highest achieving teams are the interdependent ones.

For interdependence to work well, trust is crucial. Trust empowers interdependence. Without trust, we become individuals in a maze, wasting time to find our way. With trust, we give each other a lift up as well as let others lead in areas of their gifts.

Principle 4: Progress is linear, non-circular.

Progress may not be exactly linear, as detours and potholes will surely happen. Overall, though, when looking at accomplishments, the graphical line shows linear progress. It is about getting from Point A to Point B in the straightest line possible.

What derails progress are circle-jerks. These are the people who talk in circles or always re-visit issues that have been already resolved. They keep teams in a circular motion, making everyone dazed and confused. People who do this may be extremely self-centered or inadequate in some way. To show their “smarts,” they chase their argumentative tail and all get confused in the process.

For collaboration to work, plans need to be built to take progress forward. For collaboration to work, meetings need to run in a purposeful, interactive, and results-oriented way. Working collaboration is proven when progress is linear.

Trust embraces accountability. If circles are being run, then there needs to be an accountability check to stop it. If progress is being thwarted or stuck, then accountability of actions needs to be reviewed and changes made. Trust enables forward progress, preventing circular, non-action and fostering mutual accountability.

Trust and Collaboration, Collaboration and Trust

Trust and collaboration go very well together. It is not about dampening individuality; it is about knowing everyone’s talents and gifts and using them fully. Effective collaboration requires trust, and trust empowers effective collaboration.

What trust principles do you embrace in collaboration? 

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