I spoke recently with an experienced CEO of a member-based organisation. An important part of her job is to support her members to work together to create strategies and policies to guide the whole group and to ensure that together they are more than the sum of their parts. In other words, her job is to help her members to collaborate.

But she finds this easier said than done. “My members don’t all see eye to eye,” she said. “There is an element of competition among them. Politics is definitely involved and there are some challenging personalities”.

Then she said something simple and yet so important. “We meet monthly as a board and all we do is run through the formal agenda. Those meetings are terrible forums for collaboration, but we don’t know any other way to work together!”

It is a tough position to be in. This capable leader is seeking to improve collaboration but the only tool she has is a monthly meeting with a very business as usual agenda, chaired in a very business as usual way. The collaboration toolkit is empty.

How is it that we can spend years learning to manage teams and businesses, but never quite obtain the tools of collaboration or the skills to use them? Though an experienced leader, this CEO is finding that in her current situation she doesn’t have the power to make things happen, and that is new to her. Though her management toolkit is full of useful items, none of them are suited to supporting her members to, for example;

  • listen to each other deeply
  • practice curiosity about how others see the issues
  • put their solutions aside
  • define their dilemmas together from all perspectives
  • co-design processes so that they all feel ownership and accountability
  • see past their own needs to co-create something that none could create on their own


These are among the skills of collaboration and they require a different toolkit. What is your experience? Is it time you filled your collaboration toolkit?

If you are curious about the things to put in your collaboration toolkit you, get in touch, or register for our webinar in May https://bit.ly/2Qh9dYB.