Collaboration and circles of creativity can sound like an inspired idea for any woman who is tired of going it alone and wants to create together.
Having participated in a number of time limited creative collaborations, some very successful and some not quite as successful, I’ve learned there are both benefits and pitfalls to this kind of partnership. Most of the pitfalls can usually be avoided by lots of conversation before the collaboration even begins.
There are still times when a partnership doesn’t work out. But even in those cases, following certain guidelines makes it possible to avoid disaster.
The following ideas come from my experience in several collaborative projects with other women. They also come from my desire to offer some guideposts for a balanced perspective of feminine ideals ( like curiosity and reflection) and masculine ideals (like courage and action) within the partnership.
These guidelines are most suited to independent entrepreneurs who have a lot of say in their work focus, but they are still useful for someone in a more traditional work culture simply because you may be more aware of challenges previously not noticed.
Keep these six main points in mind when considering a new collaboration.
1. Open Communication in All Directions
From the first moment of contact between two or more potential co-creative partners, there must be a willingness to keep the lines of communication open. Without honesty and openness, the partnership will not be satisfying for anyone involved, and may leave you wondering, “What was I thinking????”
As partners do you share common values and goals in the venture?
When you check in with your intuition does it feel right? Is there some internal resonance that says, yes this is what I want?
Do you know what you all want from the partnership?
2. Know Your Purpose for the Collaboration Inside Out
Be clear about the purpose for the partnership and create a collaboration agreement, with input from all partners. The agreement should include all aspects of the project, ie finance, values, mission and vision, the audience it’s for, and how you are going to take it out to the world.
What do you want to achieve through the co-creative project?
Do you want more visibility and more income?
Are you creating products for a specific audience?
Is it a win for you and for the market you will be attracting?
When does the partnership end? Is it permanent, long-term or a shorter ‘one off’ situation?
3. Have a Plan for Resolving Differences
I can guarantee that personal ‘stuff’ will come up. Emotions can run very high, and how you handle those moments are as much a part of the agreement as the project itself.
In one of my experiences, the three of us recognized our project was an opportunity to work on a personal level as well as a professional one. There were tears, there were disagreements, and there were many moments of taking ownership for our personal crap. It worked for us because we were all open to growing through the two projects we did together.
In another partnership (before I had a clue about what’s essential!) we didn’t talk about problems, and we didn’t know that we didn’t all want the same thing. It was a disaster and ended very badly, including having to freeze the bank account and losing friendships. I don’t recommend this approach!
Do you have a plan in place to resolve any differences that may surface during the partnership?
How do you build trust?
How do you negotiate a project course correction if it’s needed?
How do you handle situations in which one partner is not holding up her end of the agreement?
Is there any aspect of the project that is absolutely non-negotiable for anyone? Know that ahead of time.
Do you feel heard? Are you really listening to what your partners are saying (or sometimes not saying)?
4. Make Use of Individual Strengths Within the Collaboration
Each person will have different strengths, capacities and gifts. The best scenario is when each person is able to use their particular skills in the project, resulting in a whole where everything needed is not just covered, but generates a synergy that means energy, fun, and excitement through to completion.
Do the partners have complementary knowledge, skill and ability so that all bases are covered?
Is the venture using the creative skills of each partner, whatever those skills are?
Is there an opportunity to develop leadership through the collaboration?
Do the partners together create something unique because of the combination of creative strengths? This is the most fun!
5. Create Your Collaboration Emergency Exit
This is last on the list but definitely not last in priority. If you do nothing else, agree on an exit strategy at the beginning if either party wants out of the arrangement.
There may also be a change in direction for one person but not the others. To avoid the loss of personal or professional relationships, know what you’ll do if it’s time for one person to leave.
Never Miss the Weekly Post
With an agreement in place, there is no blame or upset. Some people just change and want to go in a different direction. It’s similar to a no fault divorce. But without the exit plan, it’s a very unpleasant surprise to find that someone wants out just when you thought things were humming along blissfully.
What is your plan when someone wants out?
What is your plan for how and when the project ends?
6. Consider the Personal Factor in Collaborations
Before you leap into any collaboration, examine it from a very personal level – equally useful for entrepreneurship and traditional work cultures. (If working with others is not a choice but a directive, these questions are still revealing.)
Is this partnership in alignment with my personal mission and vision? Is it a good fit? Or is it a good idea but not for me?
Is it exciting, juicy, fun? Does it make my heart sing?
Is the project calling me to become a more expanded version of my Self?
Is there anything I have to release for or through the project?
Knowing what I know now about all the collaborations I’ve been part of – even the one that blew up in my face – I would still elect to say yes to something exciting that fit all the above criteria.
I’d say yes for the best reasons ever – human connection, creative juiciness, and taking an idea and making it happen.
Have you tried collaboration partnerships? How did they work for you? What was your most important takeaway from the experience? Please add your wisdom below in the comments.