August 4 marked our 8th birthday, and looking back on our years so far, we can say with sincerity that it’s the relationships and experiences with our clients and partners that rise to the top. From Day One, collaboration has been our starting point, our game plan, and our end goal – and this approach has led us to some amazing like-minded people. Since this is, after all, a discussion about collaboration, we asked a few of our friends about their thoughts on the topic, and together came up with four keys to successful collaborative relationships where everyone succeeds.

1. Trust each other
Trust was a common thread that ran through our conversations with clients and partners about what they value in a collaborative relationship. There are several ways that trust factors into the equation, and it definitely needs to go both ways. We literally could not have said it better than our client Lisa Marks, CSEP, from Shaw Communications did when she said, “Our partnership has the utmost trust and I believe it is two-way. I trust OneWest to always deliver premium quality, fast-action solutions, unparalleled creativity and a unique approach, care and love of the brand, and to let me be me as an event producer throughout the entire process. My hope is that OneWest also inherently trusts me to be a strong client, understand Shaw’s objectives event to event, guide the process with respect and integrity, and set you up for success on each and every show.” See what we mean about our clients being the best

Trust is knowing that the team members or partners you’re working with are skilled, motivated, and responsible, and then allowing each to do their part without micromanaging. As our friends at e=mc2 events put it, “events are multi-faceted; we need to rely upon our team to make them the best they can be. The best way to do that is to bring everyone together, lay out a vision, and then trust that everyone is going to do the best job.”

Another side to trust is knowing that you can ask honest questions, give honest opinions, and have authentic discussions. Our client at WestJet pointed out that, “Candor, honesty (and a few good laughs!) are integral to the success of everything we work on.” It’s important to know that that everyone has the event’s best interests at heart, and that discussion and collaboration will be met with a willingness to listen and an open mind.

Perhaps the overall lesson here is first to work with people you trust, and then to trust the people you’re working with.

2. Talk, ask questions, and talk some more
Speaking of open and honest discussion, communication is absolutely essential for collaboration. This starts with asking questions. Each project, each venue, each client, each guest demographic is different, and the ways to approach the project are just as varied. Questions empower you to do your best work, and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

The best collaboration happens when everyone around the table feels that they have a voice. One of our longtime partners, Jennifer James, CSEP, of Jennifer James Events, told us that in her experience, the best events are those that “allow all partners to bring their best ideas and A-game, to create a successful outcome.” On the same token, it’s important to be listening just as often as you’re speaking up. As our client Tara Sweeney, CSEP, from Calgary Stampede notes, great collaborators “actively listen. They ask questions and seek to understand our goals. It sounds simple, but it is something not everyone has mastered.”

And when it come to unexpected issues or tricky constraints, talking it out is the only way to go. “There are always solutions as long as we talk to each other,” says our client Todd Skinner from Production Canada. Frankly, we couldn’t agree more.

3. Don’t invite your ego to the party
In work as in life: be open-minded, and be flexible. Digging your heels into an idea isn’t always conducive to collaboration, so while you should definitely use your expertise to communicate why you think something is the right choice, it’s equally important and valuable to be open to hearing what others have to say, and willing to change your mind.  “They must be team players and be open to other people’s ideas,” Tara Sweeney, CSEP says about a valuable collaborative partner. “Even if you have been in the industry a long time, you must always be open minded and willing to try new things.” Remember that the most important thing is not whose idea something is or isn’t, but what is ultimately the right choice for the project.

4. Be invested in the whole project (not just your part)
And on that note, believe us when we say that you can see it and feel it when you are working alongside other people who are invested in the end result… mountains are moved. It’s so important to truly care about the final impact of the project as a whole. Our friends at WestJet pointed out that they value collaborating with a partner “who listens and takes the time to understand our vision for the project so they can help bring the experience to life.” There is a shift in perspective when you approach a project for the end result and not for your means, and this is where the magic of true collaboration can really shine.

So in the spirit of the day, we’d love to hear from you – what do you think is the key to successful collaboration? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.