Collaboration: A Relationship Essential

Collaboration (n) the action of working with someone to produce or create something. Relationships thrive on both parties caring. Caring about each other, or caring about a common purpose. There are components of a caring relationship that need constant work, aspects like conflict and collaboration. They are normal parts of any relationship, personal and professional. Here, we are digging into collaboration which requires continual work in order to care more authentically for others in our lives. Collaboration is complicated. It's a skill you usually learn as a child and presumably master. But as you grow and evolve, collaboration becomes as complex as the problems you face. And then other people bring their own thoughts and opinions into the relationship, making it even more tricky when trying to solve the same problem. This can make working together hard, especially if the couple or group members have poor experiences with past collaborations or no collaboration experience whatsoever. Have a Goal to Pursue The first step to maintaining a collaborative spirit is focusing on the mission or vision of the project. Although utilizing both is better! Keeping the mission/vision in front of the couple or group will facilitate collaboration so that when conflict arises or efforts stall, it can effectively drive those efforts onward. People need a goal to work toward and be passionate about. That driving force will help the group move to an eventual solution. Setting Clear Expectations Regardless of the type of relationship in which you are trying to facilitate collaboration, setting expectations and communicating them are important. Instead of going into a situation where everyone brings their own ideals and assumptions on what collaboration looks like, the expectations should be clear and already set. It leaves little room for confusion or misunderstanding. Imagine if you and your significant other both went into collaborative decision making with set expectations on how to work together. It would be much easier to navigate the process and eventually reach a decision. There would be less room for aggravation and the little issues that normally arise during an impromptu decision making talk. Rules/expectations could include things like: start and end on time, practice respect for each person, critique ideas but not people, come prepared to contribute to the process, be open to compromise, and give everyone the opportunity to voice their opinion. So before the next project, decision, or anticipated argument, sit down with your friend, spouse, group, etc. and draft a set of rules or expectations for collaborating. It'll serve you well in the long run. And it will set a precedent for how those conversations will proceed going forward in the relationship. Appreciating Gifts and Strengths One of the more difficult aspects to control in facilitating collaboration is the appreciation of each persons gifts and strengths. While it should be a basic tenet of any and all relationships, collaboration requires this acknowledgement of individual talents. For example, appreciating your spouse's quick thinking and easy decision making while they see your slow deliberation and thorough research as a strength is good footing to begin collaboration. Or a coworker who acknowledges the strength in anothers objective viewpoints and the other who considers it a gift that an employee can empathize with both sides of a business situation.


We usually think of traits as strengths and weaknesses, but actually strengths taken too far are usually what is meant by weakness. For example, someone who is really detail oriented can have a hard time focusing on the bigger picture of the project or goal, and someone who is naturally focused on the big picture or goal could have difficulty with diving into the details. Both have their merits but have the potential to get in the way of the collaboration if not managed. So perhaps an additional rule/expectation is to appreciate the upside of someone’s strength while helping them be aware to manage the limiting overuse of that strength so it doesn’t get in the way of the goal or project.


When someone's capacities are underutilized or their strengths and talents aren’t recognized, people start to look for other avenues in which to use their skills and may disengage from the collaboration. Research shows that 66% of all employees would quit their jobs if they felt unappreciated; likewise, motivation for project/goal buy-in and effort is hindered by lack of appreciation.

Collaboration is a necessary skill but it takes a lot of effort, practice and understanding.