The Verus Team

Not all Collaboration is Created Equally – and it Matters!

Written by: Derek Majkowski. Any opinions are those of Derek Majkowski and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James.

It seems simple to presume two heads are better than one, or that the idea of working with like-minded people can generate positive and leveraged results.  When operating in a transparent, comfortable and pressure-free environment, it is easy to see how thoughtful individuals can come together to tackle challenging tasks and reach lofty outcomes. 
An open and welcoming atmosphere often provides the appropriate setting that inspires and incites honest and respectful discussion and collaboration.  It is usually a positive experience where there is a common goal, and the best interests of all parties are understood, valued, and collectively strived toward.

As we have learned however, that favorable and desired setting does not always exist, and the participants are not always willing to contribute in an objective and open way.  This may be when working with peers in the workplace, or while delivering services to a client.

In essence, not all collaboration is created equally.

There are situations when there are too many chefs in the kitchen.  Other times, competing incentives or rewards can cause collaboration to serve more as a conflict between parties than an advantage to the supposed beneficiary.  

Having spent many years in the financial services industry, I have witnessed countless examples of those competing forces, and sat in many less-than-comfortable, primarily forced settings disguised to invoke collaboration and idea generation.  

I’ve sat in rooms where the presumed “chefs” spent more time driving their agenda than caring about what I or others thought, and little time was ever paid on what the actual client was asking for or needed.  I watched quizzically as I was brought into meetings as a “team member” only to be muted for highlighting the structural flaws and conflicts that were created by questionable corporate initiatives and priorities. 

These were gatherings created under the veil of collaboration and team work, but proved to serve as forums and platforms used by and for some self-serving, misguided, or unsuspecting people; who represented some arrogant, self-serving, and many times, very knowing institutions.  These were hardly the stages created to cultivate a true collaborative environment, and they certainly fell short of initiating ingenuity, creativity, and goodwill.  

Despite finding myself in such disappointing settings, all was not lost.  True collaborative environments can and do exist.  While I was a non-conformist when associated with some of those previous institutions, I knew successful relationships and institutions were derived from open and candid exchange between thoughtful and objective people.

Honest collaboration happens when an individual separates from those peer or corporate pressures and agendas, and aligns with people or institutions that truly place the priorities of people first.  This is both inside an organization and with those people you serve.

It seems almost too simple to suggest, that if you thoughtfully listen to people; try to understand what someone wants or needs; take the time to fully comprehend and discuss all of the possible variables, risks, and outcomes associated with making a decision; and agree to work together toward a common goal - everyone benefits.  

There is little to lose with transparent, honest and considerate collaboration.  Smart people, and even smarter organizations, create an atmosphere that facilitates that very healthy exchange between people.  

Why do smart organizations and people welcome honest collaboration? 

Because ultimately we’re social beings.  We generally like working with others and being a part of a team, or something bigger than ourselves.  We like to help each other, share experiences, input, and advice with others.  We welcome constructive debate in the interest of getting somewhere better, and generally, we like to learn and expand our own personal boundaries.  

It’s fun to collaborate with others toward a common and shared goal.  Doing so while navigating the challenges and experiencing the successes.

When you find a relationship or organization that truly cares about the individuals involved, and sincerely enables and embraces real collaboration, be thankful.  It is unfortunate, as we are seeing with too many news stories of late about certain organizations and individuals – notably in the financial services and airline industries – that real collaborators are harder to find. 
The good news however, is if you are patient and you look hard enough, you will realize that there are still some special people and organizations out there.  People and organizations that value relationships, and encourage and support constructive and transparent partnerships.  

Believe it or not, there is a difference and consequential impact when weighing a healthy versus a toxic collaborative environment.  Fortunately for us, we figured out the one that we wanted to associate with, represent, and promote.

It’s much more fun..