From ME to WE

How often do you “go it alone”? Do you ever hear your inner voice muttering, “I could do it better by myself”? Are you inclined to avoid partnering with others because it will take longer or you don’t have the patience for it now?

Well, I have been there – for large chunks of my life! But recently, I desire more collaboration, co-facilitation, companionship on this journey of life and work. More and more I am noticing that:

  • my personal perspective is just one viewpoint, is limited
  • the world around me is getting more and more diverse and my way is SO NOT the only way
  • 1 + 1 can equal 3 (or more!)
  • it’s simply more fun when shared

The next time you find yourself convinced you will “go it alone” –whether it’s a project at work, a difficult conversation with a child, a volunteer adventure, or even what you’ll have for dinner, try out this exercise before proceeding (*). The structure for the exercise comes from the work of Barry Johnson, author of Polarity Management. I read about it in The Zen Leader, by Ginny Whitelaw, a book I strongly recommend for all leaders. Draw this diagram for yourself:

Complete it in this manner and order:

  1. In the upper left, list positive reasons for “go it alone” (+)
  2. In the lower left, list the drawbacks for “go it alone” (-)
  3. In the upper right, list positive reasons for “collaborate” (+)
  4. In the lower left, list the drawbacks with “collaborate” (-)

As you do, fully step into each perspective, letting go your preconceived biases. Consider implications on the task or project, on the relationships, on your own personal growth. Consider short-term and long-term impact. If you need help, engage others in the exercise.

Once complete, step back and really look at what you’ve written and ask:

Is now a time to proceed alone?
Is now a time to collaborate?
If so, who are the ideal collaborators?

Finally, maybe this isn’t an either/or scenario. Just maybe, some combination of alone and together has been revealed. If so – enjoy! You’ve just opened yourself up to 1 + 1 = 3!

(*) This exercise can be used anytime – and every time – you find yourself feeling stuck in one perspective or thinking you have only one option. Take your perspective, the option, and find its opposite. Draw a grid and GO!

What is YOUR wisdom?