Sailing the Seven Cs of
Collaborative Business Relationships
By Daniel Robin
To some folks, the phrase "business relationships" is
effectively an oxymoron. The more pressure to perform, the more
likely thereíll be a bump in the road to collaboration that sends things flying out of control.
Hopefully the "bump" isnít the tip of an iceberg, but
just a bit of rough water that will soon pass. Collaboration at work
isnít required, itís just a lot more satisfying and fun when it
works out that way.
These Seven Cís provide a platform for building a culture where
teamwork thrives, people are happy and productive doing their best
work ever, and can remain resilient in the face of these
The first three Cís are about you Ė how skillful you are in
handling your business relationships; the remaining four factors are
key to having successful agreements Ė where agreements provide the
safety net that makes workplaces work. These seven Cís work
together as a system of cooperation, continuous growth and
- Courage Ė You have the nerve to say what must be said,
and you temper it with consideration for the listener (the
next principle), so the communication remains two-way. You show
integrity when you assert what you know, and by daring to admit what
you donít know. "Integrity" implies knowing if
your communication is based in objective fact, your opinion (an
interpretation of those facts), or a blending of both. Sometimes it
takes courage to let silence speak on your behalf. Inquiry:
Where might you want to step up and be more courageous in your
- Consideration Ė As a sign of respect, you take into
account the other personís needs and wants, their present
situation, and you "step into their shoes" (better yet, dance
in them) Ė without losing focus on the goals at hand.
Paradoxically, the more considerate you are, the more tough-minded
and courageous you can be without breaking rapport. Considerate also
means listening so carefully that you can make requests and offers
in ways that fit for the other person. How often do you let in the
other personís agenda before pursuing your own?
- Consistency Ė Do you treat everyone the same?
("Sure, I treat everyone like dirt.") No, I mean
are you consistent, not arbitrary or biased, in your business
relations? Do you operate out of a set of core values and principles
(perhaps including these 7 Cís?) or are you subject to whims?
Consistency is the basis for being seen as reliable, dependable,
trustworthy. When you can predict what someone will do, it engenders
"trust" (even if you donít like their behavior). As a
professional, do you put the companyís interests ahead of
personalities and egos? When mistakes are made, do you focus on
learning, on closing the gap between principles and practice?
Four Pillars of Agreements
Business is about forwarding the action and getting results. In
order to uphold and apply the first three principles, the following
four conditions must be met. If any of these four factors miss the
mark, chances are good that the agreement will go nowhere.
Apply What You Know, Set Sail, and Go!
- Clarity Ė You and colleagues are clear about
what needs to be done Ė the goal is explicit and you have
acknowledged the complete set of "conditions of
satisfaction" ("Oh, you want it this
Friday?"). There are five elements to a complete request Ö
make sure the other person knows and can verify what they are
agreeing to. See the Art and Practice of Agreement at ABetterWorkplace.com/026.html
- Commitment Ė A solid "yes" that represents
unwavering alignment to give oneís best effort. Your self-talk
might be: "My word is my bond." Skillfully check for any
unacknowledged resistance or concerns. Surface the downsides to
enjoy the upsides.
- Capacity Ė This is about oneís
"bandwidth," real-world ability to see it through
to completion, to stay focused over time, to clear the path. If oneís
plate is so full that the new agreement wonít fit, the capacity to
get the job done is low. Self-talk: "This fits for me."
- Competence: Having the skills and experience to carry
out the request properly, and managing your resources so that you
can honor all your agreements. This includes renegotiating
the minute you notice an agreement thatís likely to run aground.
Competence also means making request of others to get help, and only
making agreements with those who are competent to carry out the
And if you were to rate yourself on each of these Seven Cís,
which are most solid Ėestablished strengths Ė and which one leaves
you all wet? Pick one to ponder during the coming weeks, and youíll
find that heightened attention to navigating those difficult waters
makes for smoother sailing on the seas of business relationships.
What's the foundational relationship skill? Read Rapport:
The Key to Gaining Cooperation (054) to find out.
What are the specific behaviors of collaboration? Request Collaborate
to Accelerate: The Five Behaviors of Collaborative Leadership (0704)
to learn more.
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