“Me vs. We” Energy
Collaboration is a nice idea. People working together to achieve an outcome greater than any one person could create alone. Like Utopia. And it’s become a kind of catchphrase recently. But not everyone is equipped from the factory for collaboration; even if we expect them to be. While some of us are natural born collaborators, some aren’t; and some may move too far over into the “but what does everyone else think? We must have consensus” side of the pendulum.
Healthy collaboration (based on interdependence) can be an amazing tool. But what does it really look like and how does it work?
Collaboration requires a certain type of space or environment to flourish.
Collaborative space allows for openness, for ideas to flow, and for the genius of more than one person to shine. “Me” space is limited by one person. “We” space stops being all about one shining superstar and starts being about a community; like a galaxy of stars or a universe. And when that happens, an infinite number of possibilities suddenly show up.
In a “me” space it’s all about “mine”: competition, scarcity, and “what’s mine and how can I control it”.
“Me” space is about doing things my way, “getting what’s owed to me”; getting or taking credit to become acknowledged, and making sure our hands are on everything. We don’t want to depend on others because we’ve got this, we don’t have the faith that they will. Maybe we’ve been let down in the past. We only trust ourselves. In this case we get limited by our own humanity; our time, our energy, and how many things our hands can touch directly. We must typically act and appear strong and invulnerable; otherwise someone might take what’s ours away from us; “me” space is about what we “own”. What’s ours. We also tend to take what happens personally, as if we are directly in control of it all.
“Me” space can eventually cause breakdowns in overwhelm, time, energy, our bodies, or loss of relationships and require transitional shifts for survival. One day the idea that “I can’t do it all” will show up and we might not know what to do with it.
In a “we” space it’s more about “us” and the community. To find this we must have feelings of safety, connection, belonging, and acceptance. We must trust others. That’s where we thrive as human beings. We don’t thrive when under attack — we thrive when we know we’re loved and cared for; when we feel safe. We don’t get better because someone yells at us, in fact the opposite.
In “we” space we look for each other’s strengths to fill out where we aren’t strong, and it takes a certain level of maturity to figure out having places we aren’t strong doesn’t make us weak. In fact it doesn’t mean anything about us other than the fact that we’re human.
In a “we” enviroment no longer do we need to be in control of everything, we allow for more flow and less direct control with a larger focus on creative goals but less on exactly “how to get there”. We can no longer feel like we have things “taken away” because they don’t belong to us and aren’t ours directly, they are a part of something greater. They are part of a larger whole.
Collaboration is not for the control freak.
To be able to operate in a place where each person has unique contributions, we have to let our inner control freak chill out; there’s no room to control outcomes when collaboration is the goal.
Control is all about avoiding chaos or disappointment, but when we try to control outcomes we become severely limited. We can only get or create or control so much and much of life is outside the realm of our level of our control. Releasing control requires training and practice in letting go; as well as the ability to allow ourselves to trust in the process and in the potential (unseen) outcomes as well.
There are environments where a leader can still be in charge, but it isn’t a “my way or the highway” environment. As a business owner and Master Instructor in a martial arts studio, I preferred to have input from staff and instructors instead of the “Because I Said So” managment style.
Why is collaboration a goal?
Because left to our own devices, we’ll get what we’ve always gotten. And if that’s OK, then that’s OK.
We’ll never reach outside of what we know is possible, because we try to control it all. We’ll be able to go as far as our minds can imagine or our bodies can carry us. Or our abilities will allow for; instead of letting our own invisible limits stop us, collaborative relationships allow us to move past old limitations by using the exponential power of “we vs. me”.
The tribes of old knew this, each person shared as a part of the whole to make a community work. If we were left on our own, there was less of a chance for survival. There was simply too much to do for one person.
Tapping into the power of collaboration allows us to move ourselves out of the way for something bigger, something greater than we’ve ever known, and that’s the key. “Me” space only allows for what we know. “We” space is the creative space for miraculous outcomes and results; no one person takes credit for it happening.
We become greater than the sum of our parts, we become exponentially more powerful. When it comes to collaboration, 1+1≠2; the energy that’s created is much bigger than that, we can create using the principles of synergy; because of the collaborative energy ideas, thoughts, and solutions will build off each other exponentially.
Collaboration requires connection. And trust.
To be able to effectively collaborate with others we must be able to connect, more than a human superficial level, we have to believe in their goodness and know they mean us no harm.
For collaboration to exist there must be a basis of trust. Trust seems like such a simple concept but it’s not easy. Trusting in someone or something we must let go of our ideas (control) or what or how they should or could be (specific outcomes). We allow others to be themselves and we trust in their inherent good hearts. And we trust that they won’t betray us or disappoint us.
“Me” energy is small. It’s definitive and based in our ego definitions of ourselves. It’s limited to our experiences, our stuff, what we own, what we have, what we’ve accomplished, and how good we are at something.
“We” energy is expansive, it’s bigger than us. It’s not limited to what we can see or what we have, it’s infinitely more powerful.
Collaboration requires conscious thinking, not unconscious pattern reactions.
Our reactions are based on a myriad of input or stimulus and they’re not always in our best interest.
Have you ever done or said something out of anger or fear you wished you hadn’t? Those are reactions; they’re almost instinctual and faster than cognitive thought. If you’ve ever been disappointed by others you trusted, it might make collaboration more of a challenge. It’s OK to learn who to trust, and build up those muscles over time.
Collaboration requires that we stop a reaction and consider how to respond in situations because we have the needs of others to consider, not just our own. It requires that we consciously let go of our own expectations and ideals of “how” something must go to be successful; it takes the maturity to release what we want, some idealized outcome.
Examples exist everywhere.
There are many partnerships, marriages and business I’ve directly seen the power of collaboration at work.
Durga Tree International was created specifically as a collaborative fundraising charity to support ending human slavery. I feel fortunate to have been part of watching its creation, as founder Beth Tiger (along with partners Tim Tiger and Jess Hoertel) saw close friend Sarah Symons of Her Future Coalition trying to raise funds for a roof of one of the shelters in India. Sarah is the kind of lady that puts her boots on the ground and builds shelters and trains girls/women after they’d been rescued from trafficking, and Beth Tiger saw the value in everything Her Future created. In the spirit of collaboration, Durga Tree was born and is a fundraising arm for Her Future and several other
Camp Experience is a women’s networking group that pulls business women together in the name of charity/giving back and has raised over $350,000 (and 60,000lbs of donated goods and thousands of hours) for women’s charities over the past 10 years.
Clarity International is another world-changing organization teaching the concepts and practicalities of collaboration and they’re releasing a wonderful book called, “Powerful Partnerships” summer 2017.