Women's Collaboration Summit
It was such a joy to co-facilitate New Jersey's first Women's Collaboration Summit. The joy, started several months earlier, when my collaboration began with two local business women: Marybeth Gregg and Roe Couture Desaro. We wanted to design an experience that would bring a variety of talented local women together to share stories and learn from each other and find ways to support each other.
Our design was framed in Appreciative Inquiry (AI) with the ambition to achieve the following
- bring out the capabilities that exist in the room; individual and collective strengths;
- unleash what else is possible – the positive potential of every person and potential synergies of the collective
- provide uplifting experiences that energize us all to do more of what we do best
Collaborating for High Performance
The summit started with a discovery interview on the topic of Collaborating for High Performance with the following lead in statement to set the tone of the interviews, table conversations and whole plenary discussion
Collaboration refers to people coming together to produce something they all contribute to in a variety of ways. Because of the increased complexities and pressures in our world today at home, in the community and our workplaces, productive and meaningful collaboration is a huge topic of interest. Collaborations are often loose and voluntary, while teams are usually designed for specific purposes, such as sports teams, department teams, sales teams etc.
Whether it’s a voluntary collaboration or a designated team, we come together with different skill sets, personalities, and motivations, so it’s always dynamic. Effectiveness is enhanced when people know their strengths, their values, their purpose and can be real with each other.
So what is it that makes a truly high-performing collaboration?
We have all been part of a high-performing team or collaboration at some point, even a team of two! Let’s access those high point experiences of high collaborative performance. Let’s identify the strengths of our contributions and the contributions of others and, together, we can co-create ways forward, building on our existing strengths – our positive core – to design ways we can further strengthen collaborations.
We followed the classic AI interview design with the one-on-one personal interviews. Next, we introduced the table conversations, when the interviewees shared what they had learnt from their interview partners. Then we engaged in a whole room discussion when we synthesized some of the common themes from across the table groups.
The Value of Collaboration
When we invited the participants to identify some of the themes that came out of all the high points stories of experiencing collaboration at its best, here is what was shared:
When we are collaborating at our best, we experience
- Grace under pressure
- Being present in relationships
- Embracing other's visions
- Stepping out of our comfort zones
- Being a leader and a follower
- Willingness to be truthful
- Personal Growth – reinvent ourselves
- Entrepreneurial and resourceful
- Change agents
- Support self, others and community
- Courageous, aggressive and assertive
- Mentor and mentee
- Sense of fulfillment
What is evident is that it's about “we” vs “me”. It's putting the good of the collaboration ahead of personal ambitions. A bit like a marriage in a way, when you put the good of the marriage ahead of the individual needs of the partners. And the words in the above list that best capture that sense are:
being present in relationships; embracing each other's visions; being a leader and a follower; mentor and mentee – meaning we are there for each other to serve the whole.
I am privileged to be able to do this work – to design and facilitate with the Appreciative Inquiry framework, I am always struck by the vitality and energy that is unleashed within the first minutes, and I am not surprised, because the foundational principles of Appreciative Inquiry guide the process.
- The way we ask the question determines what we find
- Words create our worlds
- Whatever we focus on grows
- Positive images create positive futures
- Positivity: It's good to feel good
We have the capacity within us to influence ourselves and others everyday just by the way we speak and act. As we increasingly pay attention to the value of collaboration, we inspire ourselves and others, just as 50 women experienced wholeheartedly during this recent summit.