Why Cooperation and Collaboration is the way to business success

I have one thing to say to all the knowledge hoarders; shady back room dealers and backstabbing entrepreneurial psychopaths – you’re time is up!

If you were half as smart as you really think you are then you would have heard that there is a new movement taking place and the rally cry from progressive and ethical business owners is “We want more cooperation and collaboration.”

These collaborative efforts are fueled by the realisation that there is more to be gained from working in partnership rather than from maintaining the traditional adversarial and rivallary of business relationships we have seen over the years. We are bored of the dirty tricks between British Airways and Virgin and now Thomas Cook and First Choice Holidays. If all companies were to behave like this it would prove a complete waste of resources and time let alone survival.

So to avoid becoming one of the many companies struggling in bureaucratic and outdated management practices and policies; you have to be smart about innovation to unlock business success and find your competitive edge. From now on you have to look at how you can develop and implement a long term, profitable strategy by fostering and facilitating powerful collaborative skills and relationships within and outside your business. STOP! Before you raise your eyebrows to heaven and tap your Jimmy Choo heels in apathy because this suggestion is not intellectually savvy or highbrow enough for you; there have been many examples of successful collaborations not just for profit but to empower people, ease communications, boost productivity and more importantly reduce the carbon footprint.

“We have built a very strong network of world class partners that strive to deliver the best products and services to our customers. Close collaboration with our global partner community over several years has been instrumental in our success and our partner’s success. I am very proud of what our channel team has accomplished this year.”
Source: Karen Sigma, VP QLogic

My most successful projects over the years did not come about because I was the most competitive in the market but because I formed awesome alliances and goodwill with like minded individuals who were prepared to leave their ego at the door for the greater good of the project. From the days of working with government department, Lloyds TSB Bank Plc and Business Links; through a shared vision and mutual cooperation we were able to come up with great ideas; share and increase knowledge; as well as improve our bottom line.

Is it easy? No. But cooperation is easier when experienced and knowledgeable people have a positive mind and skill set towards working in collaborative partnerships. What I have learnt over the years is it’s not about how clever you are but about working in innovative and creative ways to bring greater services to our customers and stakeholders. I worked with the RT Hon Theresa May MP when it was unfashionable to work with the Conservative Party yet we pulled off a magnificent Business Roadshow across the country working with the most progressive and talented entrepreneurs as we showcased best practice in ethnic minority and female businesses. We became a strategic partner to Harriet Harman MP when she wanted to see more women engaged in public life and our partnership with the Labour Party went right back to when Barbara Roach was made the first Minister for Women.

What these partnerships taught me was if you want to your collaborations to flourish you cannot work with very assertive and aggressive people who reinforce competitive behaviour that prevents long term cooperation and growth. Surround yourself with people with a vision and a capacity and capability to work with other people.

“I will have no man work for me who has not the capacity to become a partner.”
Source: James Cash Penney, Founder J C Penny Department Stores

Current management studies show that businesses who fail to work in collaboration will create companies that are not fun places to work. You may feel that you may be bigger and offer better salaries and perks but you are creating a cut throat culture of self preservation, shame and blame where a lack of trust, optimism, and goodwill means innovation and long term bottom line priorities fail to materialise. I have been blessed to work with many great men, women and companies where goodwill is the name of the game and they recognise that cooperation is much more profitable than competition. I try to reinforce this mindset and approach to working with the people I mentor to ensure that this behaviour is considered the norm rather than something nice to do.

So in closing, my three simple steps for working in harmonious collaborations and cooperation are as follows:

1. Think Win : Win
“It is only as we develop others that we permanently succeed.”
Source: Harvey S. Firestone, Firestone Tire & Rubber Company

Recognising that both companies bring in a wealth of experience, skills and knowledge so there should be no conflict about who is the smartest kid on the block. Mutual respect and collaboration means that you trust each other’s skills to not only share the vision but get the project completed to the highest standards using your diverse and creative expertise for high performance and remarkable results.

2. Honesty is the best policy
“I have found no greater satisfaction than achieving success through honest dealing and strict adherence to the view that, for you to gain, those you deal with should gain as well.”
Source: Alan Greenspan (Former) Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

Just because you run your own business does not mean there is no value in listening to and acting on another person’s point of view. Confidence in the collaboration means that you have an open and honest relationship which fosters positive and trusting intentions and feelings. Understand your own feelings, emotions and behaviours before you enter into any agreement because you will be ‘tested’. However, your behaviour and integrity sets the standards of how you behave within and outside your business and how you want others to follow.

3. No Blame in the Game
“In the past a leader was a boss. Today’s leaders must be partners with their people. They no longer can lead solely based on positional power.”
Source: Ken Blanchard, Business Author, Speaker and Consultant

There’s no room for shame or blame in the collaboration. It’s important that everyone takes responsibility for their performance and their relationships. As a leader you must have enough trust in each other to challenge and change what does not work quickly and reward those who focus on mutually beneficial solutions. Projects do not always go to plan but it’s important that teams focus on a positive and dynamic outcome which motivates and empowers rather than encourages blame, shame and failure for your projects (and businesses) to run on all cylinders.

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