Since becoming Dean of the College of Arts & Letters at Michigan State University, I've been thinking about how to facilitate collaboration with colleagues within the college and across the university. Here are 5 things that, in my experience, are important.
  1. Shared Vision
    Great collaborations are rooted in a shared vision of how to advance the mission of the university. The vision needs to further the strategic objectives of both partners, but individual interest alone cannot animate truly transformative collaboration.
  2. Trust
    Without trust there is no collaboration. Trust is built when partners believe in one another and demonstrate through their actions a commitment to ensuring the success of the other partner. When this extends beyond the specific instance, a culture of collaboration begins to take shape.
  3. Generosity
    Mistakes will be made; old habits of self-interest die hard. Over-sensitivity and pettiness erode the spirit of cooperation. When mistakes happen and old habits undermine efforts, generous and patient responses advance shared interests and further cultivate trust.
  4. Accountability
    There is no trust, of course, without accountability. Partners need to be able to say hard truths to one another, hear them without becoming defensive, and respond with patience and understanding.
  5. Good Humor
    Laughter makes things easier. Let's not take ourselves too seriously. Effective collaboration opens a space for playfulness, for inside jokes that arise when shared obstacles are circumvented, and for the fun that comes with shared success.