Skip to main content

The Wrong End Of The Stick

By September 22, 2014December 19th, 2016No Comments

wrong end of stick copyCollaboration, it turns out, is not a gift from the gods but a skill that requires effort and practice.

― Douglas B. Reeves, Transforming Professional Development Into Student Results

Commercial collaboration. As anyone who talks to me knows, it is, I feel, the only way forward in a corporate (and wider) world of constant change, fear and uncertainty; and engaging fully as leaders and business owners is essential to success.

But let’s be realistic. As we discussed just this last week at LBDG Exclusive Dinners in both Melbourne and Sydney, to err is human – and sometimes, collaborative experiences simply don’t work out, whether on a large scale (think of SONY’s inability to engage effectively across five divisions internally, and externally with vendors, to fail abysmally with their challenger to the iPod, the SONY Connect) or small.

It may be a case of friends going into business together without thinking about the ramifications of a professional relationship on their personal lives. It may be a leader who is simply too rigid and unable to change their thinking from a place of isolation – that ‘command and control’ mindset – to inclusion.

So what should we do if collabora-will
turns into collabora-won’t?
Say ‘well, that’s obviously not the way to do business – I’m going back to the closed door and me, myself and I’?

Absolutely not.

If you have a setback, learn from it. Take the following realisations and apply them to your business area, company or enterprise:

  • Did this fail because of a friendship: did you go into commercial collaboration with a friend or family member, without thoroughly considering all this would entail? Did you make clear delineations in terms of financing, areas of responsibility, and have it all signed and sealed? This is not an occasion to be ‘fluid’. Be clear about who is doing what, and paying for it. And when you have to have the tough conversations, have them. If you don’t, then you will definitely lose the personal relationship. Be prepared to step up, and you may salvage the non-book balancing side of things. More to the point, go in with eyes wide open, and with someone who has experience and knowledge.
  • Did this fail because of intractable leadership style: whether it was your own, or someone else’s, sometimes the leopard cannot change its spots when it comes to leadership. Be prepared to accept this. There is a famous example of John Chambers, CEO of Cisco, who admitted he used to be a ‘command and control’ leader, but has managed to change his style and has fostered such a successful atmosphere of collaboration within the company that there are now over 500 managers working in collaborative groups. But… for every John Chambers and Cisco, there’s a SONY. If you are within an non-collaborative environment, sometimes you simply need to move on.
  • Some partnerships aren’t meant to be. It’s that simple. People are people; and some people are like oil and water. They are never going to mix. And that’s OK – this may be the case between two individuals, or two companies. If this happens, look for an alternative viable solution. If you try to force collaboration, it won’t work.

Which is probably my biggest point. The whole thing about commercial collaboration is that you are dealing with people, rather than abstract concepts. So that comes back to you as a person. Don’t force a relationship – and above all else, trust your gut. Your instincts are there for a reason. If they are screaming at you ‘this isn’t right!!’ – well, listen!

You are your own best business barometer.

And always remember what Mick Jagger said, when asked after The Beatles broke up, whether The Rolling Stones would ever split.

‘Nah’ he replied.

‘But if we ever did, we wouldn’t be so bitchy about it.’

I’m with Mick on that one.

janine blue logo


Subscribe To Download
Enter your email so we can send this to you now and gain access to other helpful resources.