Barbara's Blog

An Unexpected Challenge in Collaborating

Posted on 4/17/2018 by Barbara Blake in leadership executive coaching collaboration

Sometimes personal drivers get in the way of collaborating. Learn how to manage yourself with questions.

In a past article, I wrote about the difference between collaboration and cooperation. There is another difference. In a collaborative endeavor, there is no ownership by an individual of the final concept. There is group ownership. An initial idea is stretched, other ideas as added, subtracted and re-added in a new way. The process is fun and watching it unfold as an observer is a bit mysterious as we can’t see the connections being in made in other’s minds, just the result of those mental leaps and connections.

Being an active participant is another matter. I have been learning a lot about myself and sense of ownership of a collaborative idea. At a presentation to a client recently, a colleague discussed a fleshing out on idea that I threw out in an earlier internal meeting. The idea resonated with the team. As we prepared for the client, I had intended to flesh out my idea further. I ran out of time. A colleague did run with it. The client was engaged by the concept. There was some discussion in the meeting as the client also played with the concept.

I wanted to shout, that was my idea! I had it first! (I may have even muttered it under my breath.) I wanted to be happy for my colleague that she had taken it further and the client was happy. Instead that demon of needing recognition was playing in my head.

How will I let go of this need for recognition? I can’t entirely. It is part of who I am. I will make an effort to channel it differently, to enjoy the recognition of the team knowing the final result was better than I could do on my own. And to be proud that I was a member of the ensemble that developed it.

How many of you were nodding in agreement as you read my story?  What steps can be done to help yourself or a colleague or team member that struggles with this?

Here are some ideas:

  • Remind yourself that ownership of an idea born out of collaboration is collective.
  • Use “we” instead of “I” as you discuss concepts. When you cease using “I”, you let go of ownership.
  • Ask “what if we looked at [the idea] from this angle [idea]?” more often. This tends to spark more ideas, associations, metaphors and reframing. And possibly a more elegant solution.
  • Sit back sometimes and let ideas unfold. By not being the author of the first idea out there, less of your ego is on the line.

Collaboration is challenging on many levels.  Yet. It does yield amazing results. For me, I will keep embracing the challenge of the art of collaboration and changing the tape in my head on recognition.


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