Six rules for successful collaborations

Holy smokes this week has been busy. I’ve only just stopped to catch a breath, and it’s already Thursday. We had crazy storms here last night, so I’m making the most of the grey weather to hit my to-do list hard …

One of the reasons why I’ve been so busy these last few weeks (eeek, months) has been because I’m working on a number of collab projects. In fact, I’ve found myself in a position where I’m simultaneously working on a number of teams. And, for a solopreneur like me, it could feel a little overwhelming.

Right now I’m working on 4 different collab projects and every single one of them is made up of a group of people scattered across the globe.

But there’s a reason why I haven’t collapsed on the floor with all the juggling. I’ve developed a set of ground rules when it comes to collaborations. And I thought it might be useful to share them with you.

Note: As always, I’ve learnt some of these the hard way. It’s taken me a good chunk of time to figure out that these rules are actually non-negotiables for me when it comes to partnering up in business. So if you’re about to launch into a side hustle with a friend, or join a team of like-minded entrepreneurs to create a product, service or event, then take 5 minutes to check these ground rules out.

Build a team with different skill sets, but similar values

This is pretty much the most important thing for me. There’s no point matching skills. Magic happens in collaboration when everyone brings something different to the party. But there’s one aspect that needs to be the same, and that’s your core values. It’s vital you establish that you’re all on the same page before you start working together.

Set clear expectations & roles

I’ve seen (and been a part of) teams that have fallen apart (sometimes badly) because clear expectations & rules weren’t in place. For many of us, collabs form part of our working life, but they’re not full-time roles. Which means that on top of the work you do together, everyone has their own hustle going on in the background. For that reason, you need to ensure that the expectations are crystal clear and everyone has a well-defined role that they’re happy with. This is even more important when it comes to remote teams. Knowing what you are responsible for not only keeps you accountable, but it gives you the space to shine.

Create structure & systems

Yep, I’m going to sound like a geek (again), but having structure and good systems in place is super important. If the team is working remotely and you don’t have good systems, it’s likely the whole project will fall apart pretty quickly (or you’ll all be totally swamped with emails, confusing to do lists & disorganised files). Two things I insist on for every project I work on: A good project management platform (I adore Basecamp), and an agenda for all our check-in calls. Both super simple to set up, but you’d be amazed by how many folks don’t put this in place. Trust me on this one. Set these up, and you’ll be working like a boss.

Lean into your strengths

This might sound simple, but it’s crazy how many people make the mistake of trying to get better at something they suck at! This is why collabs are so awesome…. because if you follow rule #1, chances are, the stuff you suck at will be someone else’s strengths. Be realistic & honest when tasks are being handed out. Don’t say yes to everything just because it’s in your nature to be over-enthusiastic (haha I’m talking to myself here).

Be honest

Have the awkward conversations at the start. Seriously. Even if it means things feel a bit icky. Even if it means you have to all go for a beer or a surf afterwards to shake it off. Whenever stuff comes up that you don’t feel great about, then summon up the courage to speak up. You might have stuffed up, you might think someone else has stuffed up, maybe you don’t agree with the direction you’re headed. Whatever it is: Be 100% honest, 100% of the time.

Be nice

Ok, so this is the last rule, but probably the most important one. Just. Be. Nice. Sometimes you won’t all agree, sometimes you’ll feel like you’re doing more work than everyone else (it’s normal for the workload to shift around as a project evolves), and sometimes someone will just be having a sucky day and will need a little extra love. Remember when someone acts out, it’s almost always because something is going on for them behind the scenes. Be mindful of that. Be kind. You came together because you saw a vision for something that could never have been created on your own.