Keys to successful collaboration

By Tami Bonnell, Co-Chair, EXIT Realty Corp. International

Each person enters into a collaboration with their own bucketful of expectations of what a successful outcome looks like.  The most important first step to achieving that successful outcome is having a clearly defined answer to the question, why?

When you examine the why that fuels the outcome of any collaboration, it will help you crystalize how badly you want it.  You know what you want, why you want it and the effort and energy you’re willing to expend to get it. You become motivated to take chances on the vulnerability needed to step outside of your comfort zone to trust your collaborators.  You seek to understand the other person’s point of view, the contributions they bring to the table, and the potential synergistic results of one plus one equaling three or four or more.

Teamwork is at the core of any successful collaboration. Bring people into the collaboration with diverse experience (both business and personal), personality types, skill sets and points of view. Diversity will help you see something from a slightly different perspective. It’s important to leave ego at the door and focus on the goal instead of seeking recognition for your part in it. Establish targets from the outset. Define what you’d like to accomplish, even if today’s meeting only gets you part way there. I’ve sat on boards of directors for charities where they were much more like social clubs, and nothing got accomplished.  Establish set targets whereby you can see tangible progress. Everyone’s time and expertise are valuable and should be respected.

One successful collaboration in which I’ve been involved is NAWRB’s National Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council.  Successful women from across the real estate ecosphere put together 10 leadership principles, and then we decided to expand our list to an even dozen so we could collaborate on Facebook Live.  Collaborating live in public is a giant risk, right? Our risk paid off when through the comments, high school and college students, people from the public and private sectors, people from charities, as well as business people, came together to share ideas, and it was amazing.

Successful collaboration thrives in an environment where you feel trust, and this is true of one’s personal life as well as in business.  An example of this environment of trust at EXIT occurred during the worst recession since the depression. We didn’t lay off anyone at our corporate head office and instead we resolved to out-think and out-sell our way out of the recession, and we did. That instilled a feeling of trust in our employees and executives, and they became more willing to take risks; they knew we had their back, and they had our back in return.

Then the pandemic hit, and everyone on our team raised their hand to ask how they could help. They rolled up their sleeves, collaborated and turned out a $50 million dollar stimulus package for our associates in a matter of just a few weeks. Every single department contributed their unique skill set, from EXIT Realty MIND-SET trainers, to marketing, technology, reception, support, and throughout the organization. Everyone ramped up their efforts and set aside their own agendas to work together to support our associates during an uncertain time. Our why was clear; our people needed us, and we had their back.

The magic of collaborating in an environment of trust is having the courage to step out and ask, “What about this instead?” knowing that your contributions will be respected, heard and considered. It’s knowing you can brainstorm, even if what you’re saying is one, long, run-on sentence because that sentence might trigger another idea in someone else. Ideas build on one another and the group becomes excited about the possibilities.  Establish from the outcome that this is a safe place and no one’s job is at stake. It has been proven over and over that people want to feel like they’re part of something better and when the group is focused on a successful outcome for the right reasons, everyone wins.

As seen in NAWRB Magazine. Reproduced with permission.  

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