Relationships and Collaboration

Relationships and collaboration. These two items are key components of the most successful departments, projects, committees and organizations. On a social scale, it’s like the perfect dinner party when there is just the right mix of people, conversation, and a perfectly timed meal. We don’t always know where the perfect mix will be, professionally or socially, but when it’s found amazing things can happen.

People who take the time to build respectful relationships with colleagues at all levels and in all departments are the ones who are able to build and implement a vision across groups that will ultimately trickle through various levels of management and administration. While that premise may seem simple enough, it doesn’t happen automatically. There are those who have the natural ability to build relationships with just about anyone, but if you’re not one of those people, it is possible to either adjust your perspective or implement some different behaviors to accomplish this.

relationships and collaboration

In any business environment there is a hierarchy, and realizing just how deep and far that hierarchy spreads is part of the key to successful, strong relationships. For example, let’s say you work in an environment where there are service or operations groups, sales and marketing groups, and then the upper level decision makers. When all three of these groups respect each other, a synergy develops which will carry the people involved (and by default the organization) forward in a position of strength. One of the most important things to realize here is that seeing people as people, and not the personification of their roles, is a key starting point to building successful relationships.

Returning to the example above, and starting with the sales team, respectful interaction at all levels can lead to success. Making a sale is good- it keeps the company profitable and contributes to paying for people’s jobs regardless of their role. But, at some point, the sales team needs support from the service team. Both of these groups are necessary for success and growth, and neither can thrive long term without the other. The way in which one interacts with this group can mean the difference between successful collaboration or sustained divisiveness between the two groups. It’s all about mindset and respect. Those who enter into these interactions with an “I’m above you” or “you wouldn’t have this job without me” kind of attitude will quickly alienate those who could otherwise be first in line to help. Similarly, those who are made to feel less important just because of their role will likely do their job, but not go above and beyond, or help when asked. Let’s face it–we all need a little extra help at one point or another. Those who are treated with respect and as equals will be much more likely to engage in a relationship which can lead to an opportunity to collaborate.

The same rule applies as it relates to upper level management. Those who are in these types of positions have likely earned them, but may not have started from the bottom and worked their way up. Especially in such cases, taking the time to understand and engage with those at the service level builds a relationship of mutual respect. You can be a manager and just by behaving like a similar level colleague earn respect simply because you didn’t behave as though you were above someone. In the corporate environment, relationships are built from a foundation of respect and appreciation for each person’s role in making a company successful. Those who have the best and deepest relationships are able to leverage them in collaborative efforts to move the company forward and contribute to growth at all levels, not just in the area of profits.

Nothing incredibly successful happens as the result of work done by one singular person. Yes, individuals can have successes and wins and positive engagement but the really big projects are successful because of collaboration. Different from teamwork, when each individual part of a team carries out their role for an end result, collaboration involves the interweaving of ideas and shared goals as well as a road map to reach the desired end result. It’s working together as well as separately, but in tandem, with others. It’s pooling resources for the optimal shared outcome. And, without relationships, people will not want to collaborate.

What collaboration  provides is a safe place to brainstorm and implement. It gives the opportunity to ask the question, “what if” and then speculate together at all levels, on what the answer might be. It challenges the question of “how” and contributes to the answers. But collaboration takes time and dedication to see a project through from brainstorming to implementation. The relationships with the people working on that project have to be strong and built on trust and respect. It’s impossible to engage with colleagues and expect any sort of success without the foundation of strong relationships in order to collaborate.

If you’re finding that collaborative efforts are not working out as well as you had hoped, take a look at the relationships and who is in that circle with you. What are those relationships built on? Are you finding yourself always collaborating with the same people? Perhaps it’s time to build some new relationships and bring in some new people for collaboration. You never know what kind of synergy might arise with different faces around the table.