Embracing Collaboration

I hated group projects in school. No, that’s not strong enough….I despised them. Often times, I would end up carrying the weight of the project. Not necessarily because my other group members were lazy, unmotivated or incapable. It was usually because I didn’t want to let go of control and I didn’t trust my teammates to complete their parts properly. Needless to say, I preferred doing my work on my own. Independent. Isolated. Autonomous.

Not anymore….

It’s been a gradual shift for me. Perhaps the desperation of motherhood has been part of it, perhaps just growing up…. I’m sure there are a host of factors, but I’m not the same go-it-alone girl I used to be.

Collaboration is my new mantra.

My passion for collaboration has blossomed out of several revelations regarding myself and others.

I have limits-- It is hard to accept this idea, but when I started embracing this reality, it helped give me space to let other people into my work and life, and that’s been a positive change for me. You may find a similar outcome from this acknowledgement. Sometimes it takes epic failures at holding it all together on your own to admit that you just might not have all it takes to accomplish the tasks in front of you. That’s not a bad thing, really. I don’t think we were designed to be able to do everything and do it perfectly. Hitting the limitations of your abilities, resources, or connections is just the beginning if you accept it and move to the next revelation….

Other people are as capable (or more) than I am-- I like being the best, but as I have lived more of my life and my world has expanded, I’ve come to relish the reality that there are a lot of really amazing folks out there that are as intelligent, skilled and creative as me. In most cases, they blow me out of the water with their abilities. They are way better at (fill in the blank) than me. This used to threaten me and make me feel small and insignificant. I’m not sure if it was just growing more comfortable in my own skin or just a good dose of humility, but rather than running in the other direction, I’m looking for these folks and I’m learning from them, cheering them on in their own work and finding ways to work with them. As a good friend as put it…. Cooperation is far more beneficial than competition.

I grow more when leaning into hardship-- This may seem like it doesn’t fit, but it’s one of the most valuable revelations regarding myself and collaboration. Collaboration is, almost always, the harder choice. It’s far easier to do work on your own. It’s more comfortable and requires less of you on all fronts. But have you noticed that you don’t grow nearly as quickly and fully when you aren’t pressed, challenged, and held to the fire? Collaboration does all those things. It will stretch you to your limits in every respect and afterwards, you will be a better problem- solver, communicator, and person for having picked the harder option.

I’m better when I work with others-- When we work with others, something generative happens. Our work is no longer our own and more and more people are affected by our choice to connect and work together as opposed to working independently. This conscious choice to collaborate will leave a mark on all those around us. And what does it teach? That we are bigger than ourselves and that others have something to offer. It will teach that picking the harder option yields more benefit in the long run. It will plant a seed in current and future generations that perhaps collaboration is something that can work to better our world.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we have to collaborate ALL the time. But I think it should be a regular part of our lives as opposed to the rare experience. What do you think? What has been your experience with collaboration?

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