This is the second in a series of three blog posts looking more closely at the six roadblocks to collaboration. Click through for simple tools to use.

 3. The desire for certainty and control

Resisting the urge to get the ducks lined up

How often have you heard someone say “Never call a meeting until you know what the outcome will be”? I have certainly heard quite experienced business executives talk this way. The subtext seems to be stay in control at all times. Always know what the outcome you want and how to get it. This organisational norm works powerfully to block authentic collaboration, which requires us to let go and to let solutions emerge.

One way it manifests is in the strong desire to ‘get the ducks lined up’ before talking to other stakeholders. When I hear a client say “we want to collaborate but are just seeking the right opportunity” it can be a clear sign that they aren’t ready to let go and therefore aren’t ready to collaborate authentically.

We have found it helpful to shine a light on the ducks in a row behaviour with a simple tool. While it doesn’t make the desire for control go away, at least it makes it visible so all collaborators can recognise what may be happening, and make their choices from there.

 4. A focus on content over relationships

Focussing on the person as much as the content

You have probably been there; Designed a meeting agenda only to add up the allotted minutes and found you don’t have enough time to include all the items. So what do you cut? Most of us in this situation will cut the ‘touchy-feely stuff’ – the introductions, the get-to-know-yous – and focus on the issues, because “we need to get outcomes”. And yet, as rational as we like to think we are, we all respond emotionally to new and challenging information. Working together on wicked problems requires high levels of trust that can only come from getting to know our collaborators as people first, and content specialists second.

Authentic collaboration requires us to go past what we know – or think we know – to explore what we are interested in and what we hold most dear. From this can emerge a new understanding of common ground and common cause. So next time you are collaborating, and even in the face of a strong desire to get to the content, why not invest more in exploring everyone’s interests and values as part of the work, using this simple guide. We collaborate as people, not as data, so moving past our content positions to learn who we are as people is a key to unblocking the journey.