Collaboration happens when all voices are heard, and all contributions valued, within a safe and open space of dialogue. People feel included and are encouraged to actively participate in the discussions or creative process.
Collaboration gets stuck when we believe our idea is the way. We cannot accommodate another viewpoint because we are so locked in our own. Time and tradition clouds the lens from which we view things. We get so accustomed to our ways that we fail to see the bright and new.
We can empower collaboration by changing our mindset. A changed mindset can alter the way we view others, our self, and a situation. It can shift our communication to more creative and inclusive language, and expand our range of awareness so we are more sensitive to the energy dynamics within a group.
Here are 7 Mindsets for Collaboration.
1. See Others as Naturally Creative, Resourceful and Whole*
Collaboration begins with how we see others and ourselves. Specifically, it starts with trusting that humans are born with the innate ability to contribute and make empowering choices. It is easy to delight in telling people what to do; it is another thing to hold space for people’s natural wisdom, and the expertise they’ve gleaned from a lifetime of experiences. (*created by The Coaches Training Institute)
2. The Fool
Seek the wisdom of the fool—he who has the beginner’s mindset and sees through fresh eyes, courageously welcoming in the new, and stepping into uncertainty. The Fool helps us to remain open and curious in the face of ideas that transcend commonly known principles and practices. And the Fool is not afraid of sharing foolish ideas. He knows that many brilliant ideas first started as foolish ones. Therefore allow all ideas to come to the table, for one never knows what a wacky, “out there” idea may lead to.
3. Permission to “Fail” / Nobody Gets to be Wrong
We remain closed and doubt our creativity because we have a lifetime of judgment under our belt. We have learned to believe that we are not smart, creative, empowered, brilliant. So we plot our responses carefully to mitigate a negative reaction, or not even speak at all. A team can change the culture of its collaborative process by stating at the beginning of a meeting, “We all have full permission to not get it right. We have full permission to fail.” Or you can say, “Nobody gets to be wrong”. In truth there is no such thing as failure; only unexpected outcomes. What’s most important is that you feel the safety and permission from within and without to share your ideas.
4. Acceptance Before Agreement
The Spirit of Yes And teaches us that to truly receive what someone is saying, we must release our need for agreement, and sit more firmly in acceptance. When we look for agreement we are no longer open to another’s point of view. We have stopped listening to anything but our own agenda. Discussions can move more fluently if we temporarily suspend our need for agreement and allow room for all points of view. Eventually agreement does need to be met, but it is more easily achieved through the path of acceptance.
Curiosity is an attitude of genuine interest. It is the capacity to draw out thoughts and feelings by creating a safe space for others to share their authentic Self. These thoughts and feelings serve as information to create from, or build upon, in the collaborative process. We can practice curiosity by asking questions that are simple in nature, yet powerful in impact. Examples include: What do you think? What does your intuition tell you? What do you want? What’s important to you about that? What do you value? Say more. Tell me more.
6. Balanced Contribution
Notice how much you share ideas versus ask for and listen to the ideas of others. If you are someone that tends to fill the space with your thoughts, try holding back. Give others a chance to fill the space. And if you are someone that tends to hold back, take the risk to speak up a bit more. Value your contributions and claim the space. Collaboration thrives when each person can hold and take space with awareness, clarity and deliberation.
7. All Ideas Belong to the Team
Instead of thinking an idea is yours, consider that the collaborative process inspired it, and it therefore belongs to something much bigger than just you—it belongs to the team. Collaboration loses its flow when we attach to, or identify with our idea too much versus giving credit to the whole. We must remember that we are much more interconnected than we know. Teams are tapping into a collective wisdom that lays beneath the conscious mind, and that inspires insights and contributions amongst all players.
3 Specific Ways to Practice Collaboration
1. When someone comes to you with a question or concern, instead of telling them your ideas, say to them, I have a few ideas on the matter, but before I share them I’d love to hear what you think you should do.
2. Building upon the situation in #1, you could suggest you both brainstorm by sharing one idea at a time, back and forth. Each person contributes equally. Be sure to ask them to share first.
3. If the person coming to you in situation #1 says, I don’t know, use a bit of play. Say to them, Imagine you have a magic wand in your hand. Now wave the wand and imagine that for a moment you do know the answer. What would it be? Or you can simply say to them, If you knew the answer, what would it be? You’d be surprised how often people do indeed know the answer. I have done this hundreds of times, and usually their answer is much better than the one I had for them. Again it’s about seeing them as naturally creative, resourceful and whole. See them bigger and more capable than they see themselves, and chances are they will live up to your expectation of them.
These three examples illustrate how both parties win in collaboration – one person doesn’t have to work as hard solving the problem, and the other learns to trust their resourcefulness while still benefiting from the other’s expertise.
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Bottom line, collaboration is the art of empowering all members of the relationship to freely express their feelings and gifts. The success of any relationship and organization lies in its ability to facilitate this process.
Practicing these mindsets with your team can happen on your own, but it is beneficial if everyone is on board. A starting point is to discuss each mindset with your team and at some point make them into written agreements, or values, from which you operate.
Finally, to practice these mindsets you will need to allow for more time in how you conduct meetings and relate to others. It is quicker, and often easier, to make decisions on your own. To collaborate, however, requires more voices to be heard which requires time. The good news is that if you collaborate now in an open and inclusive manner, you will spend less time dealing with the low morale that comes from disconnected teams.
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Leadership from the Inside Out ~ Opportunity to Learn, Safe to Be Reflective, Empowered to Take Action
Empowered Leadership Free Mini E-Book ~ 20 Attributes and Practices for Leading in the New World
The Gift of Curiosity
Liberating Yourself and Others from the Need to Agree