Sometimes when working with others on challenging issues where different views abound, things can get a little difficult. I’ve definitely faced my share of situations where collaborators aren’t seeing eye to eye, when there is argument instead of exploration. This isn’t how it should be!

In our recent webinars and newsletters we’ve been sharing three “cornerstones” of collaborative capability: understanding the collaborative pathway and process; having the skills and tools to work differently, and; the ability to think collaboratively. So how do these three cornerstones shine a light on my struggle in those difficult meetings?

The Collaborative Pathway

If I’m seeing people in disagreement it helps to think about where we are on the journey and where we might more usefully be, given where people are at. Disagreement often stems from the fact that we aren’t clear on the problem, so revisiting the dilemma can be useful. Or if people are disagreeing about who should be involved or which information is to be trusted, then taking time to get everyone’s fingerprints on process design can help. Or if people are questioning the value of their involvement, then look back at the commitment step. The point is, knowing how to travel the pathway allows me to shift the conversation to where it may be most useful.

The Collaborative Skill Set

So my group of collaborators is at the point of co-creating solutions and we’ve agreed that this is the important and appropriate conversation. Yet we are still stuck! This is where the tools and the skills to use them can be useful. People are talking but nobody is listening? Perhaps it’s time to reach for a tool like Practice Curiosity which gives me a way to encourage learning and listening across the group. Fortunately the simple instructions walk me through the process so I can use it with confidence.

The Collaborative Mindset

Now I know where I am in the journey and I have a tool to help. But practising curiosity means I’m going to have to actually ask questions of others to learn more about how they see things, and why. Meanwhile, in my heart of hearts I struggle to value their view or their experience. If I go into this conversation expecting to learn nothing, and being uninterested and incurious then no tool will be effective, and no collaborative process can deliver. This is when I need to be stepping into the mindset of a collaborator, coaching myself to be curious, to expect the best even of someone I don’t quite trust, to listen as loudly as I would otherwise be speaking. Of the three cornerstones, the mindset is the most fundamental and the one requiring practice over time.

The interplay between process, skill set and mindset has guided the development of our Collaboration System and toolkit. But whatever approach you take to collaboration, with whatever toolkit, keeping these cornerstones in mind and tapping into them to guide your practice helps deliver success. How is your capability across all three?