Invisible Obstacles to Collaboration

Communication is a key ingredient to being a successful collaborator. Honing your presentation and listening skills will make a difference. However, there are obstacles that can get in your way of successful collaborations. These could be considered invisible obstacles to collaboration because they are easy to overlook.  

invisible obstacles to collaboration

Imposter Syndrome 

One of the biggest obstacles that many people suffer from is imposter syndrome. It gets in our way when we try to achieve something new. You know the phenomena when that little voice in your head tells you that your ideas aren’t good enough. If you try this new thing – what if it doesn’t work or what if others don’t agree with you. One of my podcast guests, Kris Kelso, author of Overcoming the Imposter, calls this the comparison trap and he tells us not to fall for it.  

Kris explains that imposter syndrome is about feeling like a fraud. In other words, it is about feeling like you are not really a success despite evidence to the contrary. The comparison trap tricks you into measuring yourself against others. It is the measuring stick that says you are only adequate or legitimate if you can measure up to another person or another business, or another part of the industry. This comparison is not reality, it is just a trap and don’t fall for it. Instead, Kris encourages us to measure success against ourselves. If you are making progress toward your goals, it doesn’t matter what anybody else has done. It doesn’t matter whether it seems like you’re keeping up or are falling behind. What matters is how you feel about your own progress towards what you are trying to achieve. 

The Comparison Trap 

I found a perfect example of what you can accomplish when you move past the comparison trap in my daughter Maeve. She is the second one in our family to graduate high school. Three years before it was her turn, she attended her older sister’s graduation. She was inspired by the student commencement speaker and told me she wanted to speak at her graduation ceremony. Anyone who is a parent knows that sometimes, kids change their minds – but Maeve did not. In our school district it’s not the smartest kids who get to speak, we don’t have a valedictorian or salutatorian. A panel of teachers and students select the commencement speakers through an audition process.  

When the auditions came up in the spring of Maeve’s senior year, she started to think she wasn’t good enough and maybe she shouldn’t audition. She compared herself to other kids, thinking they were better speakers, students, you name it – better than her. I quickly told her there was one way to be sure she wouldn’t get picked – don’t even try. That must have sunk in because Maeve tried out and was one of two selected to give the commencement addresses. Maeve heard the little voices in the back of her head telling her not to try and she still went for it!  

Watch for the comparison trap and don’t let imposter syndrome stop you from showing up to a collaboration ready to make an impact.  


Another key to successful collaborations is mindset. When you adopt a growth mindset, you view everything as an opportunity to learn, grow and expand. Versus those who adopt a fixed mindset, believing they only have a set amount of capabilities, let challenges stop them in their tracks. Having a growth mindset can make all the difference in how you communicate and contribute.  

I explored this concept with Michelle Carlen from Alignment Advising on my podcast episode 219. Michelle talked about the importance of communication in leadership and pointed out that being open minded provides you with the opportunity to learn from every interaction. According to Michelle, being open-minded means remembering that we don’t know it all, as soon as you think you know it all, that’s the red flag that you may be falling into a fixed mindset. Leaning on a growth mindset allows you to accept that you don’t know what you don’t know and opens you up to new ideas.  

One way to master this thinking it to make a conscious choice every day. When I was in my early thirties, Seran Wilkie, my life coach, gave me the following affirmation that I have read every morning since: 

Today I will remember that 

I do not know “Everything” yet. 

I will entertain the possibility that 

Everything is perfect 

as it is for the moment. 

This affirmation helps me acknowledge that I still have a lot to learn. By accepting that everything is perfect in this moment, I open myself up to the possibilities of the next moment. In other words, I am not allowing imposter syndrome to creep in. I am staying in a growth-mindset and I am willing to dare to suck because I don’t know what will happen when I share my idea with the world.  


Nicole Mahoney

Related Posts

Collaboration Drives Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable tourism has growing importance in the world of travel and tourism. As destinations grow in popularity, they need to collaborate closely with residents, local…

Keep Reading

The Business Case for Collaboration

I am a huge believer in co-opetition––where perceived competitors cooperate and come together to create something bigger together than they could do on their own….

Keep Reading