Several years ago I connected with a colleague to do some research and write some articles. I was so excited to collaborate with another writer who shared my passion of leadership. We began to meet regularly and brainstorm our different perspectives, trying to hammer out a direction for our collaboration.
Initially our sessions were balanced in what each of us presented- a healthy discussion of back and forth information flow. Then things started to change with my collaborator making more judgments on my research and suggestions. It became more and more tedious and frustrating for me to share my ideas for the project. It seemed as if there was less of an integration of viewpoints, but rather an evolution into my collaborator’s agenda.
We completed the work and presented a wonderful program, but I lost total trust in my co-presenter as well as the entire process. I had such high hopes for cultivating a meaningful working relationship. What went wrong and what did I learn from this untrusting partnership?
1. Take the time to get acquainted
Before embarking on a project with someone, it is essential that you learn about one another’s backgrounds and passions. It is great to have a discussion about why each of you wanted to participate and what success means to one another. Talk about your work styles- is one person more big picture and another more detail oriented? Share stories of other collaborations you may have had and what went well and what was a challenge.
2. Establish ground rules
When working with other leaders, it is so important to establish how a joint effort should look. Make sure to be clear on what each person is responsible for and utilize each other’s strengths. Although it may be tempting, judging can lead to lower quality work.
Decide on how decisions will be reached, making a true effort to incorporate contributions from both leaders. When a project includes ideas and lessons from all collaborators, there will be more buy-in from everyone. Additionally, when leaders feel recognized and valued for their work, a sense of trust begins to build.
3. Follow through on commitments
There is no better way to break a trust between two collaborators than to not meet your commitment. When leaders act on what they say they will do, a sense of trust begins to permeate- each person is living up to their words. It’s all right to have open questions to discuss, but it is essential to come prepared. Being accountable shows others that you take the project seriously and value working together.
4. Listen to each other
In Stephen M.R. Covey’s book, The Speed Of Trust, he talks about the importance “To Listen First”. He explains that means to genuinely try to understand what are the other person’s thoughts and feelings first before trying to diagnose or analyze the words. When collaborating, we need to intently hear what is being said and not interrupt or judge. If we do jump to conclusions without listening to all the information, we may come to the wrong assumptions. I never felt listened to with my collaboration. And that is when my trust disintegrated.
These are my ways to cultivate trust in a working relationship. What are some of yours?