In The Collaboration Effect key chapters are Connecting Relationships, Listening Actively, and Educating Judiciously. As a mediations and negotiation specialist this text can help with mediation and conflict resolution, mediation and negotiation, and mediation and leadership development. The focus of this article is on connecting relationships related to business whether this involves negotiation, mediation, or conflict resolution. It is important for you to be authentic, honest, and yourself, while remaining positive and focused. You can develop a relationship quickly, for example with a short phone call commentary, or work on developing a long term relationship over time. In either case and in between you have to show interest, be open, be present, and  offer support.


When you build a collaborative work place relationship  with others in business this increases productivity, enhances communication, encourages open innovation, and shares ideas. This enhances employee satisfaction, improves retention, and develops employees faster. In today’s market these are even more important. With increased efficiency, faster response to market opportunities, and quicker closure everyone is a winner.

In addition, when you build connecting relationships, listen actively, and educate judiciously with successful interactions and negotiations you enhance your reputation within your company, with vendors and customers, and with other stakeholders.

With a positive climate it is possible to have breakthrough results, a common vision, a shared responsibility, enhanced trust, greater openness, accepting responsibility, engaged employees, and an improved bottom line. Note the emphasis is on the collaboration effect and the results are a better  bottom line. So how do you promote the first element of the collaboration effect with building authentic connecting relationships with employees, vendors, customers, and other stakeholders?

Promoting collaboration starts with relationships

The first step has to do with your attitude.

You need to have a mindset to be there and to help. It’s not about me. It’s all about we. It starts with me.

That is the theme of the book, The Collaboration Effect. Ethical leadership, promoting diversity, ensuring equity given backgrounds, and focusing on the needs of others as a mantra are consistent with being a servant manager.

The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. stated:

“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”

To develop a new relationship, it is up to you. Consider validating others by focusing on being interested in them and not on being interesting. In order to develop an engaging relationship, let the other party talk. Learn about them. Open communication, consistent interactions, and being transparent are keys to developing an authentic relationship. Don’t be afraid of silence. Silence is your friend.

How humility helps

Humility is essentially your ability to really see yourself for who you are.

That is, you need to recognize your strengths as well as your weaknesses. If you understand your weaknesses this will help you address your limitations. You don’t know it all. You don’t know what you don’t know. Your experiences are not the experiences of the other party, and their experiences are not your experiences. Recognizing this is important.

As stated earlier, attitude is key. You need to have an attitude that is there to help and to learn. Great leaders don’t use words like always and never. They know better. They don’t over-inflate their own abilities and they recognize that they are always looking to learn. Knowing this they are able to state, “I don’t know.’  This shows vulnerability. They can state that they don’t understand. They can ask questions. They can ask for help. This can help frame a problem.

A good leader shifts from telling to asking. The focus is on the other party when building a relationship. You may have a lot to say, but keeping the focus on them is how you initiate and initially connect.

If you make a mistake, own it. This builds trust. We all make mistakes. If the other person makes a mistake help them move on. A statement that I have heard and that I often use is:

“I used to think you were perfect, but now I can see you are human like the rest of us. This makes me feel better.” This usually brings a smile and helps lighten the load of the other party.

When you hear negative commentary and bad news you have to decide how you are going to respond. Allow others to be open with candor and reflect back to them what you heard them say. Protect their right to dissent. Listen to them. Acknowledge what they stated. Empathize with them and where they come from. Consider reframing the negative to an opportunity and to work together on how we can overcome any concerns together. Chances are you will both be on the same page.

Humility is not the answer to building a relationship, but recognizing your weaknesses and working to connect with the other person by being humble is an important trait to keep in mind. You can still be confident in your strengths and abilities. Knowing your gaps can help you as you work to build a relationship for better collaboration.

What about those difficult situations when there is a conflict or a dispute?

Conflict or dispute

Focus on understanding the other party.

Look for common values, beliefs, and shared areas of self. Really listen. Listen to understand. Let the other party talk for ten minutes and simply ask questions for clarification. Appreciate them for who they are as a person.

Suspend your own judgment. This is hard.

Each side wants to feel appreciated. Appreciate them. When you do this, it is possible to develop an emotional connection. This allows you to find areas of common ground. Behind every position is at least one interest. Interests are the seeds to a solution. Conflict resolution is a whole topic on its own.

Next steps

By building a relationship it is possible to initiate the process of collaboration. Look for future blogs to expand on listening actively and educating judiciously in order to build bridges and negotiate closure.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]