Collaboration: Seek Opportunities, Cut Opportunists | #leadership

Collaboration: It Can Be Strong or Fragile

Collaboration: Image are 5 Eggs in the Shells w/ Feather Over Them.

Collaboration: What Does It Really Take? Image by JeshuJohn.

Although this image does not require attribution, I compliment Jeshu John for this great photo.

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.

Collaboration: Opportunity not Opportunists Image by:Peyri

Opportunists in a work setting or on social media …

  1. Give half-baked praise of other’s contributions.
  2. Compliment people personally while ignoring their professional work.
  3. Give partial answers to seem collaborative yet withhold knowledge.
  4. Sometimes take credit for other’s thoughts and ideas.
  5. Want people’s contributions with minimal investment of their own time.
  6. Treat others well when people are helping them and pull away when asked for their knowledge and experience.
  7. 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!

How do you stay positive after being stung?

For me, it’s seeing & living an abundance mentality.

From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

Related Posts:
Teamwork Collaboration: Leadership Beliefs That Kill It
Leaders, Collaborators Are Stronger Than You Think
10 Mature Ways to Work w/ Immature Teammates

Image of selfishness by Peyri via Flickr Creative Commons License.

©2014 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

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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2 Responses to “Collaboration: Seek Opportunities, Cut Opportunists | #leadership”

  1. Samantha says:

    EXCELLENT post Kate!

    True collaborators naturally and initially engage with a win/win attitude. That’s not to imply ‘perfection’ at all. Simply the general nature. It’s an understood concept that collaboration has the potential to benefit all and that we are all greater then the sum of our parts..meaning..greater then any SINGLE persons contribution. We do great things in what we collectively do together and we are individually great when we contribute our own unique gifts and talents to the whole.

    A selfish person doesn’t yet understand this. Perhaps they will evolve in time but there are no guarantees. The opportunist is alive and well, especially on the internet because much activity can be hidden behind a computer screen.

    The challenge for some of us is in wanting to give people the benefit of the doubt…we generally want to give people second chances because we realize no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. Yet it is this very nature within the collaborator that the opportunists count on and will try to exploit if they can. They try to take advantage of those that at least TRY to do the right thing. Which can keep the majority in the dark until things are too late. Many more people get taken in and burned or exploited as a result. And if we don’t KNOW the facts of what has happened to anyone else, we may be in the midst of our own attempts to give people 2nd chances because we simply don’t have the FACTS.

    An opportunist ultimately destroys trust and makes it difficult for those impacted to trust each other, even amongst the true collaborators. Especially if everyone is trying to ‘do the right thing’ and refrain from ‘gossiping’. When what needs to happen is for people to stop protecting these people and speak up when all other measures fail. We need to quit enabling people like that once we KNOW who they are.

    I refuse to give up all hope though and continue to take risks to trust people. I’ve always been willing to give 2nd chances to people who have sought it yet if someone continues to lie or continues with harmful behavior, I eventually quit associating with them.

    Thanks for the excellent post on an important topic Kate.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      It can be very difficult Samantha depending on our outlook, our expectations, and our ability to recover from the sting. However, your last paragraph … “I refuse to give up hope” is the positive truth.

      The world is filled with great people if we only keep our confidence up and our eyes peeled to the sunlit road.

      Warmest thanks for commenting on this post!

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