A climate for collaboration

Ripples - sPreparing to succeed in strategic collaboration…

Collaboration between organisations within the sector has never been more essential. I could list the reasons why, but I’m sure you could reel off at least as many as I, if not more.

So, how can we break down the barriers that seem perennially to prevent us from making it happen?

How do we overcome the dynamics, and change the patterns of behaviour that stop all those initial conversations from becoming big, deep, and impactful collaborations?

Let me illustrate the answer through a short detour…

A business client recently shared with me a podcast that had struck a deep chord with him, as it spoke directly to the difficult dynamics I’d witnessed at times between him and his business partner.

In the podcast, the hosts, who are identical twins and both doctors, speak with a behavioural coach to understand why Chris’s constant attempts to persuade his clinically obese brother, Alexander, to lose weight, have had zero effect.

Chris desperately wants to help his brother, but his brother will not engage and invariably ends up pushing back, hard. But as the coach demonstrates through the often-emotional conversations, until Alexander gets the space and support to decide whether and why he, himself, personally wants to lose weight, Chris’s attempts will be increasingly counterproductive.

It’s not just “antagonistic” Alexander who needs to change how he thinks, but “collaborative” Chris as well – it turns out his behaviour is reinforcing the pattern just as much as Alexander’s.

The same is true for collaboration between teams.

Many of us have encountered barriers, silos and dysfunctions between departments in our own organisations. And invariably, when we’ve succeeded in breaking them down, it has come down to two things: individual behaviours and shared purpose.

That’s why the development of a new strategy, or a new definition of culture, values and behaviours, is often a key part of the solution, because it creates a shared purpose – a desired state that we’ve all personally bought into that’s worth changing for.

But it’s even more effective when paired with preparatory coaching, not only for those people perpetuating the dynamic – those with long histories, long memories, and no shortage of stories that justify their behaviour – but also for the more collaborative players in the mix who are unwittingly triggering those defensive patterns far more often than they realise.

Preparing the ground before the conversation takes place can be invaluable, and never more so than for collaboration between organisations, particularly as it’s so often those organisations with long histories and long memories who need it most.

I’ve been involved in many meetings, discussions, and forums, that have each essayed to build more collaborative working, some successfully, others less so. And the one thing I’ve learned is the importance of getting all parties into the right mindset before going into the conversation.

Preparation is pivotal to success: unpacking the baggage, unpicking the old patterns, and creating a new climate where all involved understand whether and why they, themselves, personally, want to make this work.

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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