Don't go it alone

by Aubrie Field

In a culture that promotes individuality and independence, collaboration can all too often be misconstrued as co-dependence or a sign of weakness. If someone is strong and a good leader, they should have all the answers… right?

Barbara Streisand famously sings, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” When I was a kid, this was confusing to me. If you need people, you’re dependent on them; if you’re dependent, you’re not independent. I didn’t understand how needing others could be a good thing.

As I got older, however, I began to see the wisdom in those lyrics. Reflecting on both personal and professional experiences, my toughest decisions were made with the help of my closest friends, family, and colleagues. In dire times, I’ve absolutely needed people. And the weird part? It made me stronger, not weaker. It made my decisions better. Maybe Babs was onto something.

At Unlocking Potential, we know that being a leader is ultimately about being a problem solver. In my life, problems that have arisen have been best solved with the input of those around me with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences, in order to add color, context, and out-of-the-box thinking to my thought processes. They gave me input I couldn’t have come up with on my own.

Our decision-making is strongest when we have clarity on possibilities and potential outcomes. Collaboration can sound like a big, daunting, technical word, but we actually do it every day. It simply is working together with others to produce results.

Last week, I had a conflict with a friend and wasn’t sure how to proceed. Was I wrong? Were they wrong? What should I do now? Should I say something? Let it go? Double down? Eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and call it a day? I ended up talking out the situation to several friends and family members. These opinions and suggestions came from those with different ages, genders, personality types, and lifestyles. After assessing all the valued insight of these folks, I was able to move forward with confidence. I was able to tackle the conflict maturely, and with all the collective wisdom and life experiences of everyone with whom I’d discussed it. This was an example of a useful, practical, everyday instance of collaboration.

The same applies for a professional environment. Fortunately for me, I have the pleasure of working with a small, diverse, impassioned team - any of whom I can approach to work through a challenge. Working collaboratively through obstacles is a regular occurrence. Of course, I’d be doing our UP philosophy an injustice if I didn’t also remind our readers that an effective collaboration requires humility and empathy. When we embrace the humility to recognize that we can’t solve of all our problems alone, and couple that with the empathy to recognize the value in others’ points of view, we have the perfect recipe for collaboration.

People really do need people. Collaboration is key to foster new ideas, broaden minds, and solve problems. It’s about bringing a variety of thoughts, solutions and viewpoints to the table to expand possibility. Streisand sang her support of collaboration to a catchy melody. I wonder if there are other avenues to convey this important message. Anyone have an idea?

Taylor Enders