Many of us recognise intellectually that we need others’ knowledge to solve big problems, yet we still lack the motivation to collaborate.
Harvard Business Review
The Journey to Collaboration
When Entrepreneurs start, and when they grow their business, their journey is a personal one. You choose the fields that you’re passionate about, that allows you to add value to others, and to make a meaningful difference. Your success is not just for your own financial security but to change things for the better.
In many ways, the business is your baby. There may be times you are tempted to fall into the “if you want it done right, do it yourself’ mode of thinking. Going it alone can’t be the most efficient way to get everything done, and in the long run, it isn’t even the most satisfying. Business collaboration takes time, and effort and energy to make it possible for the essential trust and understanding to develop, but when it’s in place, you do more, in a more aligned way, more sustainably.
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In 1995 I joined TSB to lead the launch of a new product for the firm, yet three weeks later, having moved my family and fully committed to TSB they were bought by Lloyds and the project I was there to run was cancelled. In that moment I became conscious of the need to collaborate with others. I had to identify and use my skills to add value to the ongoing work, or I could not expect to continue there. What are you conscious of today that means you need to be involving others soon, or now?
An idea is just an idea, but through conversation with others the idea can be explored and the good ideas improved. As the conversations develop there is a chance for some of the people involved to recognise the skills and knowledge needed to make things develop further. Whilst not yet collaborating the conversations allow a trust between participants to develop, and that’s essential for the collaboration to develop. At TSB I entered into many conversations which led to understanding what was needed now the merger had been announced and where my skills were applicable.
As a result of the conversations there will be opportunities to do some things together, helping out, both parties still on a journey to their own goals but with a chance to support each other. If it goes well then trust is enhanced and working style and practices are both exhibited and observed. Inevitably, from time to time, you’ll also see how others react to stress and challenge, which is vital in collaboration. Within a few days of the merger, I’d identified the key projects that the senior team was interested in delivering, and was bringing my skills to bear in supporting them.
With cooperation comes the opportunity to begin to share longer-term strategic goals and align them. Only when everyone knows everyone well, shares the same goals, knows their skills, and approach can it be possible for collaboration to develop. When collaboration really starts, then all the people involved know what it is they are aiming to deliver, and what their part in making it happen is. They don’t need co-ordinating management because they know what they need to do and in the absence of instruction, they make the right choices. Costs tumble, quality goes up, profits rise significantly. At Lloyds TSB I was asked to take a leading role in the prime post-merger project and to achieve our goals, to bring everyone together as a cohesive, collaborative team.
Once there is a collaborative group, the development of the relationships doesn’t stop; it develops in wider areas much as any friendship will. In the process, there grows a deep understanding between all of the people, and a sense of community develops. In that environment, there are new opportunities that develop quickly, mutually. In such communities, great things can be achieved. Now, years after the merger projects completed, years after the businesses were again separated following the banking crises of 2008 and later, many of the people involved are still close. Because the community is strong they are supporting and helping each other still, as their individual journey’s take different paths.
Are you ready to unlock this journey in your business?