Karin’s Leadership Articles

Great ideas come in halves.  Work is enhanced by true collaboration. One of the best parts of my entrepreneurial journey has been the amazing collaborations, in writing, in business, in shared passions.

I’ve got four deep collaborations in process now, including writing a children’s picture book with Alli Polin  and the launch of a Parent’s Guide to Leadership (a free ebook downloadable from the sidebar.)

I’ve also had a few false starts.

7 Reasons Collaboration Breaks Down

Here are my lessons learned. I look forward to hearing what you would add

  1. Misaligned Passions –Collaboration works best when you’re both deeply in it to win it. Your shared passion fuels inspiration. If one or the other of you is less of a zealot, sooner or later the spark will fade.
  2. Propinquity- Joining up with the usual suspects or the guy next door, simply because of convenience limits possibility. Go slower and cast a wider net when looking for potential partners. When you stumble on chemistry search deeper. Sure working with partners around the globe is logistically more tricky, but becoming easier each day due to amazing technology.
  3. Score Keeping – Real collaborators don’t keep score. They’re too engaged in the cause to count who’s doing what. The focus is on the end state.
  4. Surface Respect – For true collaboration to blossom mutual respect must run deep and thick.  It becomes slippery when one or the other feels superior.
  5. Fuzzy Communication- Collaboration requires a constant flow of real-time communication. Don’t rely on email or chats, look in each other’s eyes, even if it’s over Skype.
  6. Short Term View- True collaborators value the relationship over the small stuff. They’re willing to let go of what really doesn’t matter and spend time seeking to understand differences that do.
  7. Rigid Boundaries – True collaboration involves doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Toe stepping goes unnoticed or is met with a real-time discussion.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. David Tumbarello

    You have “mismatched talent” but what about “mismatched risk-taking”? I don’t have an immediate story, but I feel that when you enter a collaboration each partner risks (1) being vulnerable, (2) being hurt, (3) exposing weaknesses, (4) energy with an uncertain outcome, (5) changing … and probably a few more qualities. Come to think of it, these are risks that are present in any “committed” relationship, business or otherwise. What is important is to share risks (brag politely if necessary) and to acknowledge that the partner is actively taking risks. That way you can appreciate risks taken separately and together.

    • Karin Hurt

      David, I really like how you’ve extended to the conversation, and I totally agree with you. Once again you’ve written another post in your comments. LOVE IT!!!! Thanks so much.

  2. Steve Borek

    Collaboration breaks down when the project doesn’t align with their values. They’ve joined the party for ulterior motives.

    • Karin Hurt

      Steve, YES!

  3. bill holston

    Sorry, I’ve been gone for a bit. We’re overwhelmed with all of these unaccompanied minors from Central America just now.

    Great article (as always!) I think collaboration is a bit like marriage. It requires constant open communication, mutual respect, and healthy doses of mutual encouragement.

    It breaks down for similar reasons including the well known ‘stupid fight.’

    • Karin Hurt

      Bill, Sounds like you are having an interesting and very worthwhile summer. I so agree, it’s a lot like marriage,which in may ways is the most complex collaboration of all.

  4. Shawn

    I am currently involved in multiple projects where people were assigned to participate. Because of the assignment and not volunteering based on desire or passion there are people involved in the projects that don’t share the same interests or energy. There are many times I see this happen in the environments that I have worked in, and so projects often don’t get the best results, and some of the people are over extended and lose pace on their normal responsibilities.

    As a leader I try to ensure I am soliciting interest and giving opportunity to those who have the ability to balance the extra project responsibilities with their current job responsibilities.

    • Karin Hurt

      Shawn, You raise a REALLY important dynamic here. So many times we don’t get to choose with whom we are going to collaborate. So often it’s about making the most of working with the people in the scene. I love the approach you describe here.

    • Karin Hurt

      Shawn, You raise a REALLY important dynamic here. So many times we don’t get to choose with whom we are going to collaborate. So often it’s about making the most of working with the people in the scene. I love the approach you describe here about taking time up front to really engage the right team.

  5. LaRae Quy

    An absolutely great list of things that true collobators should do, Karin!

    I’m so excited about your book project with Allie! That is a true collaborative project that will resonate with many business women leaders in the future.

    • Karin Hurt

      LaRae, Thanks so much. Of course one of the big 4 is the Energized Leaders book project. There are so many examples of beautiful collaboration working with all of you on that. Game on!

  6. jelenko dragisic

    Hi Karin,
    You covered those points so eloquently I had to include your post into my weekly dispatch of weekly recommended reading which I hope you do not mind. In my experience collaboration failures, be it total break down or simple poor impacts at the of it, often have one thing in common: a poor governance structure and wrong mode of collaboration selected. Those ‘boring’ bits tend to be swept aside in the initial rush of enthusiasm that collaboration often elicits in us humans.
    Great piece and thanks for sharing.
    Jelenko Dragisic, ROADMENDER

    • Karin Hurt

      So great to have you join the conversation and thank so much for sharing. You raise a really important point about setting the collaboration up for success. So vital! Thank you.


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