An Introduction to The Collaborative Way®

A Designed and Intentional Way of Working Together

The Collaborative Way® is a called-out way of working together. It’s based on five core practices, and we found over the 25 years that we’ve been practicing and developing The Collaborative Way® that when a group of people takes on these practices and take on learning to work together this way, they’re able to produce extraordinary results.

The Five Core Practices of The Collaborative Way®

So let’s take a look at the five core practices that make up The Collaborative Way®. The first practice is Listening Generously. So just imagine that a group of people actually learns how to really listen generously to each other so that they’re able to listen for the value in what each other is saying–that they’re able to set aside their their preconceived thoughts, their previous conclusions–all the different kind of filters they have for each other. Set those aside a bit and be able to bring real curiosity to what the other person is saying and listen for the value in what the other person is saying. Just imagine what kind of impact that has on what a group of people are able to accomplish.

Then Speaking Straight–it’s not enough that we really are powerful at listening to each other. We also need to learn to really speak straight to each other. And by Speaking Straight, what we mean is honest and in a way that contributes to what we are working to accomplish together. So it takes a high level of responsibility for the impact of your speaking. So it isn’t license to attack somebody, to demean somebody, to be irresponsible with what you’re saying. It’s speaking honestly in a way that can actually contribute to what we’re trying to accomplish. When we get both of those practices–Listening Generously and Speaking Straight working together–then you start to be able to capture more and more of the collective intelligence in your organization. It really opens up the ability to be more agile as a company.

And then when you add the next practice, Being For Each Other–here’s where we take on, as a practice, supporting each other’s success, truly “being for” the other person. That includes being willing to have challenging conversations that are necessary to support that person in succeeding in what they’re doing. It also means cleaning up issues, resolving issues that we have between each other that get in the way of our being productive together. It includes listening for positive intent, so when something goes wrong we don’t immediately jump to a negative conclusion about the other person’s intent–that we start by looking for positive intent.

And the next practice is honoring our commitments. So here in Honoring Commitments,we begin to look at commitment as a tool for accomplishment and that commitment is a relational phenomena–that we take on these commitments together. So, someone commits something to me to do something for me–I am also in on that, and I’m committed to their success, if I accept that commitment. When we start to work together in that way, it builds real effectiveness in our ability to keep our commitments and to take actions that are actually going to help us accomplish what we’re up to together.

And lastly, Acknowledgement and Appreciation–this practice by itself is extraordinarily powerful. Just imagine the impact that it has on you when you feel truly appreciated for what you’re giving and what you’re contributing to what we are all working on together. When we all begin to be responsible for the presence of Acknowledgement and Appreciation in our company, and that we both get good at giving it and get good at receiving it, and get good at supporting others in giving it. Whoa, the power of having that level of Acknowledgement and Appreciation is amazing.

Focus on What You Want to Accomplish

Now, a critical aspect is that the focus of all these practices is towards what you’re working to accomplish together. So, we’re not practicing Listening Generously or Speaking Straight just for the sake of Listening Generously or Speaking Straight. We’re practicing all the practices so as to forward what we’re up together, so it’s to contribute to what we’re up to together, so that what we’re up to begins to both true our practice up, and it also provides us with the reason to take on learning to work this way, because learning to work this way can be very challenging.

We All Have Different Expectations About How We’re Supposed to Work Together

So, here’s the thing: if you don’t call out how you’re going to work together, then you’re left with each person’s expectations of how we should work together, and the problem with that is they’re not going to be the same, and it’s going to lead to misunderstandings and upsets. It’s going to reduce our ability to cooperate and collaborate and make it so much more difficult to accomplish what we’re up to. Well, when we do call out how we’re going to work together, when we do take on the practices of The Collaborative Way® and focus towards what we want to accomplish together, it results in an extraordinary way of working together. One thing we hear over and over again from people who are practicing The Collaborative Way® is their appreciation for how simple it is, and that in it being simple, it makes it so much easier to learn this way of working together. They also express their appreciation for the depth in each of these practices and recognize that it’s a lifelong learning opportunity to get better and better at each of these practices. We’d love to work with you to support you in deepening your understanding and your practice of The Collaborative Way®, and it’s important to appreciate that the key to success is practice. One thing our clients have taught us is that at whatever level of understanding you have for The Collaborative Way®, if you will practice, practice, practice and support each other in your practice, you will be able to accomplish things together that are beyond your reach today.


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