5.2: Collaboration: Trust Floats the Boat

y Janet
Grace Riehl and Stephanie Farrow

See a two-part conversation between Janet & Stephanie reflecting on their 37-year collaboration. These are the third & fourth posts on this blog-of-the-month theme of Making Collaboration Work. 



At the 2010  SCN National Memoir Conference in Austin Janet gave a workshop on how to Put
Story Poems in Your Memoir Tool Box. You can listen to her discussing story
poems on the SCN podcast: http://is.gd/9xpv5

Collaboration: Trust Floats the Boat

Trust, at the core of collaboration,
is a heart skill needed for emotional intelligence and effective joint work. Sure,
you need a work partner who balances your skills and temperament. But without
trust, it ain’t gonna work.

How do you build trust?

Personal trust begins with
common points of reference. It’s often a shared experience or sensibility. When
you share a wider passion, your work becomes an extension of friendship and
respect, and vice versa.  

For example, Stephanie and I are the
same—only different. We look different, have different lifestyles, were brought
up differently in different parts of the country.

At first blush you might not
think that we would ever be friends, much less collaborators. Truth be told, we
didn’t  become true friends until some years
after we met in Ghana. Over 37 years we’ve translated our relationship from
Ghana to New Mexico and continued as I moved to California and then to
Missouri. Thank goodness for email and wide-area calling!

Our common sensibilities and core
values allow us to bridge our differences.  Our decidedly quirky sense of
humor doesn’t hurt either.

How do you sustain trust? 

Beyond trusting each other on a
personal level, sustaining trust in a collaboration relies on the indispensable
ingredients of a shared work ethic, sense of purpose, and discipline. In
effective collaborations both partners share goals, desire quality work, and
respect one another. Both need to be committed to seeing the job through to its
mutually agreed-upon end, no matter what.

In any collaborative project, each partner
brings her own strengths and skills to the table. In the best of circumstances,
these interlock with and complement each other. Partners often find that one is
better suited for a certain task. This makes the division of responsibility
logical, even easy. When partners are equally adept, or when a task appeals to
both, the key is to parcel out tasks fairly and to the satisfaction of both
partners. Fairness and successfully solving a problem jointly bolster

The shared quality of
stick-to-itiveness generates a history of reliability. You can trust that your
partner will be there with you from beginning to end of the project. Together
you build a strong track record. 

Trust is the vessel that holds the
messiness and chaos of creative collaboration. If you’re gonna float your boat,
you don’t want it to leak.

Out next post on collaboration (5.3)
will guide you to check your ego at the door as you explore further the
emotional and relational side of collaboration. What does trust look like in



Pose questions about practical
creativity; give ideas for future cycle themes; and join in the dialog in the
comment section below. Peruse the Creative Catalyst archive at:
http://is.gd/9xolA.  Create
connections through the arts and across cultures at



4 responses to “5.2: Collaboration: Trust Floats the Boat

  1. I love the line about checking your ego at the door
    , for a collaboration that is a prerequisite.

  2. Yes…within the collaborative unit competition isn’t useful.
    I’ve just posted an interview with Stephanie Farrow my long-time collaborator on http://www.riehlife.com. You might enjoy this.
    Janet Riehl

  3. Enjoyed the interview with your friend and collaborator. Trust is essential in any positive long-lasting relationship, from that of a spouse, to sibling to business partner to next-door neighbor. Excellent point made where each of you bring your own strengths and skills into the partnership. Great blog.

  4. You capture the process of building trust so simply; especially the idea of having a common point of reference…
    Thanks, Karen/Folkheart Press

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