Working Together: Four Values for Collaboration

Being together feels a little different now. We needn’t be physically near to be together. Personally, I’m thrilled to find that my kids spend more time with their grandparents during isolation than they did before – it is possible to babysit a three-year old over FaceTime! In the same way, our society’s understanding of working together is changing in a big way. Previously, working together meant sitting down at a table together whenever possible. We know now that we don’t have to be in the office to work together. Working together means working towards a common purpose. And even more than that, it means achieving more as a team than you could as individuals. 

In organizations and teams, meetings are an important way we work together to advance our common purpose. Whenever Sarah and I gather a group, we share these values at the beginning to help us create a common understanding of what working well together looks and feels like. Without shared norms or values, a group may be together without working together. 

  1. Value of individuals. We believe that each person in the room has wisdom to offer. That’s why each of us is here. Some people know what they want to share. Others aren’t sure yet. We work together to uncover each other’s wisdom. 
  2. Value of participation. We believe that listening and speaking are both important opportunities to seize. Each of us has those opportunities when we are together.If you are typically a speaker, find a place to listen. If you are typically a listener, find a place to speak.
  3. Value of consensus. We believe that strength comes from the connections between our perspectives. We strive to understand each other’s perspectives, both where our perspectives and experiences are similar and different, so that we can build our common purpose. Whether you love the result of the work or can merely live with it, consensus means agreeing to move forward together.
  4. Value of collaboration. We believe that no one of us can do important work alone. This why we come together. Together, our team is greater than the sum of its parts.

These values form the foundation of the work that Sarah and I do with groups. We are writing a few articles about improving your meetings and will share tips and tools so that you can embody these values in meetings with your team. Feel free to use these values now. If you already have group norms, see how they relate. If you haven’t talked about norms with your team before, start by getting feedback on these. Send out the values and ask for feedback about where your team is strong and where you can improve. Ask for suggestions for other norms to add. Then, come together for a discussion about how you would like to embody these norms in your work. 

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