When we are worried about how our stakeholders will react, the urge to get the ducks in a row can become irresistible. But of course the more we try to manage out risks before talking to our stakeholders, the more it can look like we are doing this project to them, rather than with them. And anger grows. We are giving energy to the very thing we seek to avoid.

This dynamic can be quite paralysing.

How do you recognise when you are lining up the ducks, rather than engaging authentically? Can you see yourself here?

I am probably getting my ducks in a row when I seek…

When authentic collaboration requires…

Complete clarity and agreement as well as sign-off on structure, process, rules, governance …. Stepping into messiness

Early conversations, before we know what this is about or how we will work together on it

Adequate agreement initially on the problem or the way forward

Really clear and agreed objectives, goals, measures and milestones Building a shared understanding of the problem or situation and the desired destination

A willingness to take the next step despite not knowing

Ongoing reflection on what is and isn’t working

Control of both the process and outcome Making decisions together (doing ‘with’ not ‘to’) to grow commitment and ownership

Learning together by doing together

Shared accountability and agency through co-define, co-design and co-creation

A plan to manage difficult relationships and diverse opinions Exploring and investing in relationships and trust among collaborators

Listening to, acknowledging and valuing the diversity of views

Approvals and sign-offs by the powers that be The courage to try something new together

Tacit agreement from the boss to proceed

To put off getting started until I’m more confident Acknowledging that uncertainty is unavoidable and the right time to start is right now
To manage out all the risks Living with some uncertainty and risk. Putting them on the table and managing them together

Perhaps rather than get our ducks in a row we can find ways to let them go where they will, showing us the way to more authentic collaboration.