Think you can compromise your way to collaboration? I see it differently.
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Collaboration and compromise are not related. They don’t even hang out together.
Here are definitions of each from the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Compromise: 1. Settlement of differences by mutual concessions.
b : Something intermediate between, or blending qualities of two different things
Collaborate: 1. to work jointly with others especially in an intellectual endeavor
In compromise, you reconcile differences by letting go of something you care about. Or you ask others to do that. According to Merriam-Webster, concession is: something done or agreed to usually grudgingly in order to reach an agreement or improve a situation.
While expedient for moving past differences, compromise has nothing to do with collaboration.
Collaboration builds; compromise weakens.
I know what you’re thinking: But, if we’ve reached an impasse and are running out of time, shouldn’t we compromise and move on?
If you don’t mind the “grudgingly” part, sure. If you are prepared to live with “grudgingly” for the rest of your time on the planet, by all means, compromise.
But I think it’s worth a minute or two reach for collaboration.
Collaboration has 3 cardinal rules:
1. We uncover our common goal and stick to it like glue.
2. We bring all of ourselves in service of the common goal, especially those parts that make us vulnerable.
3. We don’t ask for or make concessions; we look for whole-hearted solutions.
When you facilitate a compromise, your goal is resolving differences. If we can’t all agree on A or B, then let’s make C out of what we can get past the censors. No one is happy with the result, but we’ all put a good face on it. Often, we are so exhausted, we’re just glad the conversation is over. Compromises are not enduring. They come apart under the tiniest jostling, like wallpaper over a crack. That’s why compromise leads to feeble follow-through and resentments that simmer, sometimes for generations.
When open discussion is your default meeting process, compromise is the best you can hope for.
If the fissures in your group keep popping up and derailing your momentum, this is the most likely cause.
Facilitating collaboration requires a complex skillset. It will feel all wrong at first, like you’re about to break your group. That’s because “working jointly” is not the same as agreeing. It’s more like taking a journey together. You don’t march in lockstep to your destination, you arrive.
A transparently fair, structured process that is consistently applied is what collaboration needs. You probably think this takes more time and will silence individual voices, but it does the opposite: It’s much faster, yields a better result, and builds a creative, resilient group or relationship. It’s this paradox that makes collaborating so deeply rewarding.
Take one tiny step toward collaboration
1. Notice. Are the meetings you attend set up for collaboration or compromise? The meetings you lead? (Hint: Structured meeting processes hinder compromise and support collaboration. Do you use them?)
Notice your reaction to this newsletter. Do you see it differently? Tell me what you see in the comments.
Next week I’ll talk more about the specifics of collaboration. There’s a lot to say and more to practice. We’ll take it bit-by-bit, and keep it easy and fun.