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United we stand, divided we fall

What can make a collaboration work? Collaboration is a word that has been bandied around, sometimes with a great amount of passion, for several years. It is something that has been encouraged by funders and, more recently, almost forced on some organisations by the cuts and the difficult economic climate. But what can make or break a collaboration?

Pulling together a group of people with a whole array of skills, backgrounds and passions is not easy, especially if they are all leaders!

I believe that practical things such as the mission, structures, incentives, ideas, specialism, technology etc are crucial ingredients in the mix. But without one key ingredient the collaboration is unlikely to succeed. That ingredient is trust.

However, the trust has to begin within each individual organisation.

A good leader will ensure that there is transparency. By being open with your own staff and clearly explaining ‘the plan’, you will gain trust and support.

A good leader will understand the implications for all employees. This does mean all. Not just the people that you work closely with but even those that you occasionally pass in the corridor or don’t have much contact with because they are part-time or because they sit too far away. There will be a lot of fears and anxieties, which if not dealt with could be costly. The trust dynamic has also changed as more and more contracts are short term rather than permanent leaving less time to build trustworthy relationships.

Large institutions have faced meltdowns because there have been far too many unknowns, ad-hoc forecasting and development of internal ‘groups’. Trust is multi-dimensional and once broken is hard to repair.

Now and then good sense breaks out and allows trust and collaboration to begin. Trust (like distrust) is contagious. It is carried socially and can flourish when enough people in a given population show willing.

It is only when the trust is visible within individual organisations that any collaboration can stand a chance to flourish or indeed even survive. Get the trust in there, then the listening, engaging, sharing and delivering will happen much more effortlessly.

Trust is essential and valuable, but for too many organisations and for too many leaders not nearly enough effort is displayed.


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