Teamwork, collaboration & trust by Colin Phelan

June 2024

Key pillars of all partnering Facilities Management contracts include teamwork, collaboration and trust. Without these in place, Contracts will not be set up for success and will always be on a precarious footing. It is only with honest hard work from mobilisation, to stabilisation, transition and transformation of service that we create the partnerships that our business has been built upon.

Having been a Guide Dog User for 9 years, I had virtually forgotten the journey of trust, collaboration and teamwork that is the foundation of a successful partnering relationship between a Guide Dog and their handler.

Maria Sava, Colin Phelan, Anne Rabbitte and Sylvie Neylon

My partnership with my Labradoodle, Jingle, spanning 8.5 years with trust and teamwork at the heart of our collaboration. Jingle remains in fine health and is exactly the same weight at nearly 11 as she was in 2015 when we started working together, I wish I could say the same. However, time waits for no Guide Dog and Jingle is past retirement age so in fairness to Jingle, we needed to move on and allow her to enjoy her retirement.

In April this year, I was introduced to Croí, a bronze Labrador and we commenced our training. Croí remains to this date under the age of 2 and is a wonderful dog who continues to learn his craft – Is Guiding a vocation, craft or a profession?

Croí and I are still very much getting to know each other. I need to appreciate what motivates Croí, Croí needs to know what I need and expect from him, and so it goes on. The key to the partnership is trust in both directions.

As a young dog, Croí will make mistakes, as all dogs do throughout their Guiding lives. To be clear, oh yes, for the avoidance of doubt, no more or less mistakes than when being guided by a human!

When Croí makes a mistake, either instigated by myself or Croí, that chips away at trust built up as we do not yet have the body of work to put a mistake down as ‘just one of those things’. When Jingle made mistakes, our body of work together was such that trust between us was not hindered by the event. Mistakes with Croí have a more significant impact as we do not have a track record of trust between us.

When a Guide Dog is working, they will, for example, indent to the dropped part of the kerb, when crossing a road on the route. If as they are indenting, they detect that the handler is not fully coming with them and maybe starts to slow down or hang back, they will then question themselves as to whether they are doing the correct thing or not.

This then results in stress with the dog, bringing on distraction tactics, sniffing, looking for something else to do, walking too fast or too slow and generally being under stress. A situation that can spiral out of control if not addressed.

This applies to every aspect of working in the Guide Dog partnership and yes, sometimes this will result in errors by the dog and the handler and it is only time and successful walks that will eliminate errors on both sides.

Colin and Croí, guide dog

Colin & Croí

Croí, bronze labrador

When reflecting on this journey, it reminds me of the journey of building collaborative partnerships with our FM Clients, there will always be things that go wrong, it is our job as a service provider to make sure that the weight of successes is significantly greater than our failures. If this is the case and relationships with our clients have been forged on firm foundations, they will continue to work and support our joint objective to serve the Client community.

Trust is at the heart of our partnerships, where all stakeholders recognise that we are working towards common goals. The importance of the mobilisation period for all parties is to set the partnership up for success and make sure foundational pillars are in place to deal with the ups and the downs of any partnership we are involved in in our business or personal lives.

Colin Phelan, Director of Communications