“Yes, let’s collaborate on this. And when we communicate, we should only use emails. Also, if we’re frustrated with a lack of progress, let’s resist the temptation to speak with each other and instead complain behind each other’s back. Agreed? Alright, let’s execute.”
It’s absurd to think anyone would utter the words above. Yet, arm’s-length collaboration, the act of keeping others at a distance and not connecting with them in meaningful ways, is common.
Maybe that’s because the definition of collaborate is so broad it encompasses and is synonymous with the definition of cooperate. Both mean “to work together.”
Which is why two of the most important questions to ask when parties agree to collaborate are:
- What exactly do we mean by collaboration?
- And what can we agree is not effective collaboration?
As human beings we are wired to connect with others. And most of us are intrinsically motivated to do more than just work together; we want to build and achieve something that is bigger than any one of us alone. And we know merely cooperating won’t get us there.
That’s why it can be so disheartening to be halfway through a project only to learn that the other party’s definition of collaboration was limited to exchanging information through emails.
Collaborative leaders establish a shared reality from the start.