People buzz a great deal these days about ‘partnerships’, ‘collaboration’ and ‘joint ventures’ – but to be nifty and effective about these, we have to get to trust each other – and quickly.
And do you ever get the feeling intuitively when you meet someone, that you can trust them – but that their behaviour signals are not helping convey this?
When we doubt each other, negotiations and deals take longer, we’ll hold back commitment and resource to the project and in all probability, progress will slow down so that someone else will get there before us.
Here are some tips then to show your trustworthiness is worth taking a chance on:
Your Initial Impression
When we first encounter another person, there is a dance going on… where consciously or otherwise we seek out how we are similar and different to each other.
You’re more likely to be trusted quickly where you listen, attend and react appropriately to what the other person says, maybe reflecting back and summarizing this (We all know this stuff but it is hard to do when you are slightly anxious).
Good chat is about developing what they say and taking it forward. One idea leads to the unfolding of another (as does good writing incidentally).
Much more often that we realize, our underlying need in first meeting someone may be to reassure them – that we can deliver, that we understand where they are coming from, that we are not going in for a coup on their territory.
Behaviourally, this is a ‘ steady Eddie’ kind of requirement: nothing too quick or defensive in body language, open and responsive facial expression, direct eye contact and pauses in speech – so they they can respond and you seem to be thinking as you speak…well, you are, aren’t you?
Knowing Where You Come From
We trust each other more readily when we know some details about the other person which reveals their human side. When I coach British execs to present in the US, we always create some folksy content for the intro – usually including photos of children/grandparents/pets, which seemed to be a cultural norm over there. (plenty of evidence of this in the excellent TED talks).
We can take this thinking further – and usefully, I think – by considering ‘If the other person is going to respond stereotypically to me, what would this involve?’ So if you’re a bright young thing going to meet with someone at a much more mature stage in their career, shall we say… then the last behaviour you want to demonstrate is that you’re a smart-arse.
Yes, you want to show that you know your stuff and are bang-up-to-date – but also that you know what you don’t know, can ask for advice and above all, are hungry and energetic for more learning.
Knowing Where You Want To Go
Partnerships and collaborations most often come unstuck when we don’t know what roles we are expected to play, and where there is unclear division of task, specialization and responsibility. This stuff has to be discussed – and the sooner the better.
You can help get to this discussion by revealing at a first meeting, what your aims are, where you see yourself operating and growing, and what you consider to be your strengths and weaknesses.
‘Aargh’ I hear you think ‘ But this could blow it, if I reveal I’m competing with them in anyway’
I disagree. It just gives you an opportunity to sort out what areas of collaboration may be best placed out of bounds – and lets you chip away at the areas of potential mutual benefit.
And if your direction is a problem to the other party – well, you’re best out of there, anyway.
ps Slides which go with this post have been delivered at this Invent and Collaborate workshop this weekend. Here they are: