The little secrets of collaboration: Assume good intent

My former employer’s Director General used to say, almost ad nauseam:

‘always assume good intent’

At some point, it kind of became formulaic.

No one seemed to be listening to that particular message of his any more. And the gossips and rumours went on as they always do – and indeed always did.

But the point he was making was excellent and deserved more attention and more intention.

A marker of good collaboration: We have to assume good intent from our partners. Trust is a bridge made of mutual vulnerability, openness, interest and indeed good intention vis-a-vis one another.

Strong collaboration doesn’t work when you suspect something is off or fishy at every turn of the way. And if suspicion looms in, use it as a great opportunity to strengthen the collaboration by exploring these snags together.

Sometimes the motivation behind our partners’ actions, words, plays is not entirely revealed to us. Sometimes not at all, even. But when we’re serious about collaboration, we can’t draw conclusions too quickly, we can’t act rashly in the face of an ill-understood turn of events, and we certainly can’t jump the guns around.

Every time we act impulsively on the basis of our partners’ hidden motives, we risk undoing the slow, careful, tended growth of our building trust with them. Collaboration -for important and/or complex issues- is just too important to come down to petty toddler reactions. So we all need to learn to hold our breath, keep calm, assume positive intent, and have a useful conversation to clarify matters.

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Published by Ewen Le Borgne

Collaboration and change process optimist motivated by ‘Fun, focus and feedback’. Nearly 20 years of experience in group facilitation and collaboration, learning and Knowledge Management, communication, innovation and change in development cooperation. Be the change you want to see, help others be their own version of the same.

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