Healthy and unhealthy forms of collaboration
I’m a firm believer in collaboration. Not all forms of collaboration are good though. In fact some are simply toxic chemical weapons of mass self-destruction and I’m personally guilty of everything that I’m sharing with you.
How can that be that not all forms of collaboration are good? As entrepreneurs and business owners with a conscious mindset we can have a tendency to look at things through rose tinted lenses and consider collaboration to be solely a force for good.
Two dictionary definitions are:
… the action of working with someone to produce something … (so whether good or bad depends on the context)
… and …
… traitorous cooperation with an enemy (quite clearly bad … although that too is subjective).
I believe one main driver why we seek out and enter into collaborative relationships is for the purpose of producing something great that will add value to people and create a desirable outcome for the collaborators collectively and individually; in the business world this most likely includes revenue generation, at least the greater majority of the time. When we get it right, it’s awesome, almost magical and we get dopamine rushes thinking about it.
When we get it wrong it can be, and usually is, devastating on at least one and usually several of these many levels
- psychologically – self doubt, low energy, depressive, suicidal
- stagnating business growth or retrograding it
- direct and immediate negative impact on personal and business financials
- personal and/or business insolvency; especially when business owners use the business bank account as their personal checking account
- personal and/or business bankruptcy
- long journey down the road to personal and/or business financial recovery
- reputationally – both self concept and public perception
… and all of this impacts on your domestic life and relationships with partners, spouses, children, and on you in respect of your siblings, friends and other social contacts.
When things go wrong, both the traitor and enemy in the second definition is primarily the person you look at in the mirror.
You did the deal. You agreed to the commitments and agreed the levels of commitment of your collaboration partners. You accepted the gig and the rewards that went with it for your participation and the rewards for the participation levels of others.
Did you deliver everything you were expected to? …. and more? Or did you cut corners, cruise and underwhelm? Was your collaboration partner guilty of any or all of this?
It really doesn’t matter what someone else did or didn’t do. You can’t change them. Accept it. You can change yourself so be the change you want to see and have the guts to change what you can in yourself. Common sense goes a long way to know the difference between knowing what you can and cannot change, and in lieu of common sense, experience derived from the costly involvement of multiple iterative collaborative failures can produce the same ability to know which is which and discriminate accordingly in future. Common sense is more cost effective though.
The best way to recover from a collaborative venture that has gone south is to consciously take responsibility for what has happened, detach from the outcomes and any other crap, salvage what can be rescued with least amount of effort, review with intent the steps that lead to the demise and learn the lessons it offers to form real knowledge on which you can rely in the future. Then move on rapidly.
Yes, others we collaborate with are responsible for their actions and sometimes other good people do bad things or at least things that are to our disliking and things that have a negative impact on us.
The best way to avoid collaborative ventures that were destined to go south from before the point that you put pen to napkin in the coffee shop is to be clear on your value and the value you expect from the other party or parties. Then ensure reward is relevant, responsibility is committed and accountability is installed.
Collaboration is not charity. It is transactional. Each party brings either equal value to the collaborative venture or they bring value commensurate to the percentage of the rewards the collaborative venture will create for them.
I’ve had many failures in my life. I had many thoughts and taken many actions that have led me to each. I believe resolutely that each one was an experience from which I learned. In some cases the learning was instant. In others the learning took time to reveal the full knowledge I was meant to gain from the experience.
Both are painful and I believe there is equal equity to be gained from either path, so obviously I prefer the instant variety.
I’m still not perfect. I still make mistakes. In comparison to some people they will be huge mistakes with huge consequences. Others will see them as insignificant from their perspectives and paradigms.
Realise that outside perspectives and other people’s paradigms are only relevant if you allow them to be.
My best advise is nothing new I’m sure. At best it is reconfirmation of something you’ve thought, done or heard before, probably from a very young age.
Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off and forge ahead fearlessly again, seek out the people and places for collaboration, with improved knowledge of the topography around you, along the way to your next milestone on your journey.