Collaboration Skills

“It is the long history of humankind those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” – Charles Darwin


With the advancement of modern society and culture there have been remarkable adjustments within previously well-defined sex roles, the nature of leadership within relationships and expectations within them. Women today are by and large expecting an equitable stake in decision-making and demanding that their insights, opinions and interests be represented in most decision-making processes, while being equally insistent that the man, ‘be the man’ in the relationship. Clinging to old masculine stereo-types of leadership and decision-making agency and authority are severely outdated, and won’t be accepted or tolerated for long. How then is a man today to take the gender assigned role of leadership, to make decisions without being authoritarian and overly dominate? The answer lies squarely within the concept of ‘partnership’, which takes into account equitable stake consideration and collaboration with any decision-making process to resolve an issue. Relationships today are truly more about partnership than an a pairing.

Defining intentions

Collaborative leadership means developing compelling shared goals, and providing inspiration throughout the process. Often the initial problem or goal isn’t the issue at all, but the conflicting and unspoken criteria upon which the solution will be judge will be. Understanding what that framework is, is critical to developing mutual agreement to any given situation. This groundwork is crucial, as often the problem being addressed usurps the goal of maintaining and furthering the relationship. This will get you nowhere, quick. Having an agreed upon purpose and buy-in from your partner is essential for collaboration to work.

Discussing the problem

Learn to let go of the outcome, avoid taking it personally and focusing on the project, not your ego is necessary to clearly discuss any issue. For example, neither of you is going to give a shit if you go out for dinner and have Italian or Chinese tonight, but you will both remember how the other made you feel when coming to that decision. Being wary of breaks in the flow of communication, which occur where the flow of information is halted, as people talk and listen to each other, where one person says something that sounds critical or otherwise threatening to the other… Breaks disrupt natural harmony and problem discussion. Learn to prevent them to sort out what the real issue and objective is.

Gain an understanding of the underlying interests

Actively listen. Being able to accurately state your partner’s intent, view-point, concerns and goals with trying to solve the issue before moving on. When we collaborate, we listen deeply to everyone involved, we make sure their voices are heard, measured and appreciated. Doing so tells your partner they are valued, respected and trusted. Within that process and context new ideas and risks we take in proposing them, that normally would not have otherwise taken, can emerge as possibilities.

Learn to spot when the conversation is getting emotional

Being able to read and manage the emotions of your partner when collaborating, to make it safe again to continue meaningful dialogue, is essential to maintain collaborative flow… Turbulence in a dialogue flows occurs when negative emotions become too highly aroused. Much like a moving stream, when these turbulences become too powerful and swift they jeopardize those navigating them. Without smooth flow of information couples become frustrated, as they speak with each other and ultimately cannot make decisions together. Having an ability to skillfully exit a tensing situation and to cool a situation off and re-enter meaningful dialog is an essential collaboration skill.

Work together to invent a large number of creative solutions

Understanding each of your combine intents of stated outcome, being mutually aware of the other’s interests, and clearing the collaborative effort of breaks, roadblocks and turbulence will open up the flow of communication to provide a wide range of possible solutions. It is important to not limit this flow of ideas, concepts and proposed solutions until there have been a series of solutions to draw upon. The more that partners build upon the other’s ideas and concepts in adding and addressing value the more likely a decision can be made to please all parties involved.

Evaluate possible solutions against each other’s interests

In reducing the possibilities it is important to remember that the solution is not as important as to what it does to the relationship and your partner. Often emotional needs should be communicated here, as it will be apparent when one’s needs are not being fulfilled and any attempt to move forward will be Pyrrhic. The cornerstone of any decision should be made with full disclosure and offering of trust and respect. Without it any solution will be a poor one.

Ultimate decision maker

As with most partnerships there is a formal and informal structure and defined roles that facilitate that relationship and partnership. Often democratic and diplomatic decision-making can and does come to an impasse with conflicting needs, desires and wants stemming from a problem or answer to a potential solution. Having a pre-determined ultimate decision maker within the relationship is designed to offset these impasses. As a man and the socially, culturally and sexually expected leader within the relationship, this role should naturally fall to you. Care must be made in utilizing that role as unilateral decisions made without considering your partner are surely only going to go so far. It would be wise to have a measure of justification and pattern of decision-making when doing so. Often it isn’t a matter of what gets decided, but providing the context, consideration and good-will in the making of it that will provide enough emotional buy-in for the decision that your partner may not agree with it, but will go along with the decision with minimal friction. It is important to remember that in making these types of decisions that we have accrued an emotional bank account of good-will upon which we can draw without bankrupting the relationship.