Effective Communication & Collaboration

by Brian O’Regan


Effective collaboration takes time, patience, and effort – but it’s worth it. 

Collaboration allows us to achieve things that we could not achieve on our own, and it enables all parties involved to operate at a higher level. Effective collaboration needs effective communication, and although it can take time to build, it’s always worth the effort.


Listen first, and listen with a genuine desire to understand. Then speak. 

Listening is more important than speaking when it comes to effective collaboration, so listen first and then speak. Listen with a desire to understand what the other person is trying to say and try to see things from their perspective first.


Approach collaborative conversations with an “abundance mentality”. Try to be as open, honest, and generous as possible. 

Having an “abundance mentality” means believing that there are plenty of opportunities for everyone. When we begin a collaborative relationship in this way, it opens up far more possibilities than a narrower scope would allow. While maintaining a sense of generosity, also be careful to protect your most valuable assets, particularly in the early stages of a new collaboration.


Know what you’re bringing to the table, know what you need them to bring to the table, and make sure that you’re both at the same table. 

Effective collaborations are built on strong foundations of mutual alignment and complementary skills, knowledge and resources. Make sure your shared goals and values are aligned, and make sure that what you bring to the relationship complements what the other brings.


Build trust by showing trust and by demonstrating trustworthiness.  

Trust is the glue that holds strong collaborative relationships together. We can build reciprocal trust by showing that we trust the other person, and by demonstrating trustworthiness ourselves. Trust takes a long time to build, and it can be shattered in seconds, so treat it with great care.


Aim for “synergy” in your relationships, and “win/win” in your agreements.  

Synergy is the highest form of collaboration, and it’s where the collaboration itself brings ideas and results that could not have been achieved by both parties working independently.

When an agreement is reached, make sure it’s a balanced “win/win” agreement, where both parties achieve what they set out to achieve. If this isn’t possible, you can also decide not to collaborate.


Ensure you are communicating with clarity, confidence, and intent. 

When you communicate, make sure you’re doing it effectively. Be clear, concise and confident, but not forceful. Before you speak, make sure you know what you’re trying to say. Ensure your non-verbal communication (such as body language) doesn’t contradict what you’re saying verbally.


See the value in the different opinions of others.

If someone has a different opinion to yours, or if they’ve done something differently to how you wanted it to be done, don’t criticize them – try to see it as an opportunity to see things from a different perspective. Don’t assume that you’re right. Welcome the opportunity to expand your own knowledge and awareness of different approaches.


Deal with disagreements carefully and empathetically. 

Don’t let a disagreement turn into an argument. Find common ground again and go back to basics if you need to. Figure out whether the disagreement is related to your shared vision/goals, your values, or your methods. Take the time to understand their perspective, and don’t make impulsive decisions. If you’ve made a mistake, admit it quickly and honestly.


If no solution can be found, carefully consider your options with the other collaborative partners. 

If a collaboration has reached a point where it’s just not working anymore, or if no solution can be found for a particular difference or disagreement, then you’ll need to carefully assess your options depending on the circumstances. This is also where effective communication will be vitally important.

If you’re ending an official collaboration, try to end it collaboratively. You can both agree to disagree. This process may benefit from some external facilitation from a third party but try to resolve it between yourselves first.