Trust, truth and talking things through

Collaboration thrives on trust, truth and a willingness to talk things through.  When these elements are present for people in a team or in a department, those people take responsibility, use their authority wisely, and develop a climate of openness.

Here are key principles and other aspects of each of these elements.


I trust you if you speak and act with respect and maintain that respect when you communicate with others about me

Team members gain trust by doing what they say they will do.  But even more important in gaining trust is being respectful when speaking to a person or to someone else about a person.

In addition, a manager should always defend the team’s boundaries.  This includes alerting the team when there is a potential conflict with another team or manager and backing up the team when it needed.


If you believe you’re never wrong, you should not be on a team or in management.

Truthfulness is, of course, saying what’s true and not saying what’s false.  But much more important is being willing to own your own mistakes and misunderstandings.  By being open to correcting yourself, you make space for me to do the same.  You also make willingness to adapt and learn part of our shared culture.

A lot of the work of business is finding out what’s true – about a market, about a product, or about the world.  As long as we’re open to learning, which means there are things we don’t know, we encourage real inquiry that leads to knowledge and good decisions.

Talking things through

 “Talking things through” is being willing to address conflict.

Since conflict is inevitable, we need healthy ways to deal with it.  The best way is to acknowledge its existence right away, but not by making the other person wrong.  We can state what we see as disagreement without disrespect or rancor.  Start from assuming that the other person has a valid reason for their view.  Then start listening rather than arguing.

While compromise is one way to resolve conflict, there is a better way.  Begin by understanding the values and intentions of the other person.  Then search for ways to resolve the conflict while advancing both your own and the other person’s values.

What about incentives?  People who are collaborating successfully need very little additional incentives, because the process of collaboration – and the successes it generates – are rewarding enough.  Create an environment where there is trust, truth and talking things through, and you need only get out of the way.

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    About John Levy

    John Levy works with senior managers in mid-sized organizations who are responsible for development and delivery of major software or hardware/software products. He helps them gain confidence that their projects will succeed.

    Development projects can fail in many ways. You need a guide who speaks the language of business and is knowledgeable about technology. John aligns Development with the organization's strategy so it will contribute efficiently to the success of the enterprise.

    John has been consulting for over 20 years. His book on managing high-tech teams, Get Out of the Way, was published in 2010.

    For more information, email him at, or call 415 663-1818.
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