I love working with other consultants on projects. It is a great way to learn, improve and deliver work that you couldn’t do on your own. Recently however, I have had an not so great experience of collaboration. Most of the time you get to choose your collaborators in advance. Sometimes you don’t and the client puts together a team from a range of consultants on its books. The first time this happened to me it was a huge success and my co-collaborator and I are still friends to this day. The second time this happened it was not successful. We just didn’t gel. It wasn’t like the other person was doing anything wrong, he just had a completely different style to me and wasn’t prepared to adjust that approach. He had claimed that he wanted to learn from me about the way that I work, but increasingly he was just interested in the bit of the contract that was well within his comfort zone and didn’t really want to know about anything else.
So, what to do? How to ensure that the project didn’t come off the rails because the other person wasn’t pulling his weight?
- Communication: I stepped up my communication with him. We touched based almost every day. I expressed an interest in what was going on outside of work and was sure to take the time to talk about non-work stuff often
- Acknowledgement: I made a point of highlighting his wealth of knowledge and how we have to make use of it – but in the right way
- Holding to account: I would always agree the tasks and objectives we were jointly and individually working on via email so that when things didn’t work out I had something to fall back on. I know I could have used the contract terms for this, but they are always a last resort and I prefer to work things out rather than get all legal.
Managing a colleague that you didn’t expect to have to manage, as well as the client and the project process is challenging, but it is better to rise to the challenge and deal with the person’s idiosyncrasies rather than let the project fall apart or damage relationships with the client.
Do you think these three things would work for you? Have you had experience of collaboration that has not worked out? How did you handle it?