Collaboration Guidelines

Posted: October 20, 2011 in Leadership Development, Relationships
Tags: , ,

I have been drawn to and fascinated by the idea of collaboration in recent days. Though I have tasted it, I am finding that I want more of it in my life. To co-labor means to work as a team to see a project through. It implies a creative investment of the heart and soul of multiple individuals. Collaboration is at its apex when all parties are left satisfied with the result. Even when the group “fails” on a project, they can all be in agreement about the lessons learned from the process.

You do not have to be best friends with someone in order to effectively collaborate with him or her. You simply have to have a level of respect for the perspectives that the person or persons brings to the table. All parties need to be willing to freely express without fear of punishment (either real or perceived). Each person needs to feel that he or she is on equal footing with the others… That their ideas matter just as much as the next person’s idea. Here there should be no power plays. Only respect. Also, you cannot be in too much of a hurry. These things take time. These are the elements that set a great stage for an environment of collaboration.

Before true collaboration can take place, brainstorming needs to occur. All ideas are collected at this point and considered for further development. Some think that brainstorming is collaboration, but it is really only a precursor to true collaboration. Once an idea has been selected, it can be moved into the collaboration stage.

Once you have established this environment and are really ready to work as a team to see an idea take flight, you need to know some guidelines or rules of collaboration. These rules may be necessary as you develop the team, but may prove not as necessary when the team gets more comfortable with collaboration. Use them to serve your purpose, not detract from it. If things get hard, you can rely on these guidelines to steer you back on course.

1. Define the responsibility of the creative gatekeeper. Who bears the ultimate creative burden and responsibility for this project? Who’s baby is it? The person whose idea is being discussed, torn apart, and recycled, should be respected as the gatekeeper of that idea. The person should willingly submit the idea to the collaborative process. Such a thing should never be forced. Then the other participants act as advisors to bear the burden of bringing their own perspectives to the discussion. The creative burden bearer has the responsibility to draw input out of others. If you are working with a creative person that does not yet know how to do this, someone must model it for her. If you are on such a team, draw things out of others around you. It will eventually create a collaborative culture on your team.

2. Assume to give and receive honest responses. All parties must assume that the others will tell them their opinions, respectfully, though at times, bluntly. There should be no excuse for silence when something is suffering. At times, the creator must convince the team that other opinions are valued. All parties must be committed to excellence at the cost of possible hurt feelings. Over time, feelings will be hurt less and more excellence will be achieved.

3. Respect the rights of the creative gatekeeper. The gatekeeper of the idea reserves the right to accept advice, enlist help, or rework the idea himself. If this person is not used to asking for help, parties can respectfully offer to help in areas of expertise, leaving the ball in his court to respond. The collaboration process is hampered when one or more people feel as if they have lost the right to contribute, particularly the originator. You can know that collaborative process is working the way it should when the originator is voluntarily asking for the opinions of others and everyone is free to question anything.

4. Recognize when the gatekeeper of the idea has shifted. Perhaps someone comes up with an entirely more effective idea. If all can agree that this idea is more effective, a new gatekeeper is found and this person should be shown the same level of respect for her new responsibility to see the idea through.

Happy collaborating! It is worth the investment.

What are some tools you have found to be useful when collaborating with others? I would love collaborating with you on the collaboration process!

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Comments
  1. Karrie says:

    If God is the Creator of all things, including the creativity He places in each of us, wouldn’t this make Him the gatekeeper of creativity? Or are you speaking of a corporate tangible to the touch implementation? I have wrestled with being entrusted with many ideas and wanting to implement those ideas into fruition, only to stop short because of praise received for a “great idea”. I don’t ever want to pass an idea off as my own because what seems to happen is people put praise where praise isn’t due. Let’s collaborate…share your wisdom on what I just said. I am not embellishing or puffing the praise up. It’s real and it keeps me from stopping a project. I don’t want pride to sneak up and I don’t want to get involved in politics of a corporate setting. Please share your ideas to help me bring God’s ideas forward.

  2. Karrie says:

    I think I answered my own question, haha. Pride is not a character of God. God tells us not to fear evil. I shouldn’t fear pride and I won’t if I keep my eyes on God. In saying this, maybe we can collaborate on prayer to be released of fear 🙂 Thanks for your article, Leigh. I was just praying about this last night. God has given me a way to explain complex things in a simple way for unhearing ears and unseeing eyes. He has told me to move forward with some things and I just can’t seem to go because of fear. I would love to collaborate on some things with you some day.

    • beleighve says:

      Love hearing your thoughts, Karrie! I think we too often think that our ideas are “all God” or “all flesh” and I think that is a mistake. We know in part, and that is why collaboration is so key. We all have a piece to the puzzle. Coming up with ideas is hard work, so it is only natural to respect that role, especially if that person has responsibility in a corporate setting. I don’t think it’s a pride thing as much as it is a clarity of authority and responsibility. The very fact that someone is willing to collaborate speaks of humility. False humility is when we can’t seem to own the responsibility for our own ideas. We say, “it’s all God” …as my dad used to respond, “well, it’s not THAT good!” God wants to speak through particular vessels because of who he made us to be, not in spite of who we are. Okay, now you’ve got me wanting to write another blog… 🙂

    • beleighve says:

      Absolutely! And let me know any time you’d like to collaborate 😉

  3. Karrie says:

    I laughed when I read what you said about what your dad would say. I know you were being serious, but he’s right! I think I will remember it always. I read a book a few months ago (I mean, I’ve read others since then, too, haha) that was simple in nature, but held heavy on my heart. It’s a book by the founder of Gospel for Asia and I remember one of the many things he said that stood out to me. He was so passionate about what God had called him to do and when he shared it with others, he may have been a bit over-abrasive in the delivery of his speech. People who know me personally know I am far from serious most times, but I have noticed when I start talking about ideas and such, I lose my silliness because of the passion behind it. Anyway, this man said the best advice he was ever given was from a pastor who told him not to take himself too serious. This pertains to what you were speaking of. I don’t think there is any other way to go about this without being my silly self. This is the thing that gets people’s attention when they are talking to me. It almost seems at times, after a serious conversation with someone, they walk away disappointed for the lack of entertainment. So, you are correct in pointing out to me to be how He created us. Consider me humble, because I would love to collaborate with others…well, as long as they do what I say 😉 Keep writing, you’re making me think and I enjoy thinking.

    • beleighve says:

      Love you, Girl! And thanks for your encouragement. Every time I publish I am so scared of what people think, that encouragement helps. It’s partly because what I write about really hits home for me at the time usually. Maybe you should start writing too! 😉 P.S. I’m pretty sure my dad was trying to be funny too. I use that line every once in a while…

      Sent from my iPad

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