Collaboration: It Can Be Strong or Fragile
Collaboration can expand everyone’s greatness when everyone seeks opportunities — not just opportunistic moments to meet their own needs. Whether an entrepreneur, a legislator, a corporate leader, a team member, an educator, a student, or a non-profit volunteer – we all reap the benefits of collaboration when we contribute at least as much we take.
Collaboration: What Does It Really Take?
Collaboration is powerful mechanism for success. It requires:
- Respect for everyone
- Building and honoring trust
- Confidence in yourself and others
- Belief that interdependence is better than total independence
- Emotional intelligence – awareness of others’ needs
- Giving as much or more than we take
Opportunists betray the trust through hidden agendas and manipulation. They build their own success while only seeming to help others. On the surface it appears to be collaboration. When we look deeper we see the superficiality.
Tune Up Your Radar to Spot Opportunists
It is the pattern of behavior that defines an opportunist — not any one moment.
Opportunists in a work setting or on social media …
- Give half-baked praise of others’ contributions.
- Compliment people personally while ignoring their professional work.
- Give partial answers to seem collaborative yet withhold knowledge.
- Sometimes take credit for others’ thoughts and ideas.
- Want people’s contributions with minimal investment of their own time.
- Treat others well when people are helping them and pull away when asked for their knowledge and experience.
- Accept help from authentic collaborators but contribute the minimum in return.
In social media networking, we can of course turn and walk away from opportunists. In a work setting, it’s not always possible. Opportunistic behavior then plants roots of mistrust. It changes the dynamic in sometimes unidentifiable ways. Those who collaborate and help others feel the foolish sting of being used. They sometimes become guarded and less collaborative.
Preserve the Purity of Collaboration
As a leader, you know that something has changed but you’re not sure what or why. Yet you see the loss of trust and its damaging effects on collaboration.
- Start discussions on the expectations of collaboration. Shine a light on the topic with teams and ad hoc project teams.
- Have everyone define the difference between a collaborator and an opportunist. Of course make sure you are the former! Build a culture of collaboration through initial discussions, modeling the behavior, monitoring progress, and making changes.
- Give yourself and everyone the OK to be on the lookout for opportunistic behavior. It doesn’t mean you are a cynic. You can collaborate as an optimistic realist and keep your radar tuned for signals. Raise the warning flag and speak with those whose behaviors are opportunistic. What are their goals? Why are they acting this way? Reconfirm what is expected for collaboration.
- Remove opportunists if they are unwilling to truly collaborate. Some leaders find this difficult if the opportunists are very knowledgeable. Yet if you reward individuals who won’t collaborate, your message to collaborators is clear.
Life is learning so learn from it. Learn the signals to avoid being stung again. You will build inner strength to recover from bad times. Then go forward with renewed confidence and create success with authentic collaborators. There’s lots of them and you will find them!
From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™
Image of selfishness by Peyri via Flickr Creative Commons License.
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Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.
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