When you think of collaboration, what do you imagine? Do you think of folks pitching in, lending a hand, and getting a job done? Or do you think of folks sitting around a table, figuring out what needs done and how?
In the grand scheme of partnerships and cooperation, both types of collaboration are needed. The former tends to get the glory, because it’s visible and tangible. When people work together to DO something there’s a noticeable impact. And to be sure, it’s usually the more enjoyable form of collaboration! Working with others towards a common, shared goal is joyful and fulfilling in a way few other activities can be. Sitting around a table and talking about things…not so much fun, a lot of the time. However, there are conversations and ideation that absolutely must be done before any action can be taken, and - when done properly and with intention - talking through issues and finding solutions can indeed be enjoyable.
Meetings certainly get a bad rap. Even I despise the idea of traditional meetings . . . endless, boring meetings where people talk about what they talked about before and what they’re going to talk about next. Planning to plan for a plan. It’s frustrating and boring and a complete waste of energy, in my book. However, a collaborative conversation . . . now that’s exciting. When you have a meeting of minds, a joining of intentional and action-oriented energy for brainstorming and problem-solving, things get done on the mental plane so that they can then get done on the physical plane.
So, what does it take to have a truly effective collaborative conversation? Believe it or not, it takes the ability to shush and listen to others. The more partners listen to each other, the more they get done. A traditional meeting is just a bunch of heads talking at each other, which is why it can feel so . . . useless. No one is really hearing anyone else, so nothing ever really gets done. An authentic conversation is intentional listening and reasoned discussion, with a set purpose in mind. It’s taking the time to really hear what other people have to say, considering their needs and their ideas, and working with them to make decisions.
Here in the Oil Region, we are so fortunate to have a host of action-oriented partners working together, and I’ve found that I truly look forward to our meetings. Whether we are sitting around a table, or meeting for lunch, or engaging with each other at an event, we are able to truly, authentically listen and hear, which makes it possible for us to create viable, practical plans and implement them. We talk to do, instead of just talking to hear ourselves talk.
Our conversations are also enjoyable because of the number and diversity of viewpoints. We have partners from local municipalities, from counties, from non-profits, for-profits, institutions, and public agencies, and we are all working together for the common good. Action can still take frustratingly long, especially in the world of grants and bureaucracies, but we keep pushing for the little wins as well as the large, long-term ones, keeping each other energized and excited for the continual betterment of our communities.