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Community is the Heart of Collaboration

At the heart of collaboration—a favourite topic of mine—is community. For me, community can best be described as the group of people who you feel connected to. These are the people that you “belong” to; people who welcome you and celebrate you, for who you are; people who respect your thoughts, ideas, and perspectives—even if they are different than your own.

This sense of belonging, being respected, and being included, are essential to our personal health and wellness—of how we look at ourselves.

I attended a small elementary school with only 3 classrooms and 60 kids in rural BC that met the needs of kids in grade 1 – 7. Needless to say, there were never very many girls in my multi-level classroom. If I were to count them off, I’d only need one hand.

As a student who moved to the area in grade 2, I was a late arrival. Bonds had been created. Friendships had been established. Added to that was the fact that my parents both worked full time. Play dates, except on the weekend when they were busy building our new home, were rare.

I did make friends. I’m social by nature. However, I was never secure in feeling like I truly belonged. I wasn’t one of the “popular” kids … and I was usually a second or third choice for a play date, if a play date was requested at all.

I vividly remember setting up a play date with a friend when I was in grade 6, and walking the 2 km to her house to hang out… only to find she’d changed her mind and taken off to hang with another friend—one of the ‘popular’ girls. Needless to say, I was deflated on the walk home.

I share this, not because I am looking for sympathy. Childhood is difficult, and I suspect that each of us could find a similar story if we tried. The fact that I remember this experience so vividly simply reinforces how important it is to be valued as we are and for who we are.

Our sense of belonging is at the core of who we are. We need to feel connected. We need to know that we are loved and accepted for who we are and what we think—even if it is different from everyone else. On a side note: I’m happy to say I’ve found a community that loves me as I am. ;)

By now I’m sure that you understand the direct link between this story and community, and why I feel community is so important. It is the concept of community—of “belonging”—that helps to create strong collaborative relationships.

When we embrace and celebrate our fellow collaborators, we invite them to bring authentically to the conversations. And by showing up authentically in our conversations, we find unique ways to bridge our ideas, processes, and approaches. The result: something quite different from what you would have come up with on your own.

When we enter a collaborative conversation without the need to be right, to have the answers, to follow a pre-set process, we open the door to launch creativity, to think outside our traditional box, to spark ideas that on our own we would have missed.

This is when the collective power of collaboration shines: our shared wisdom leads to outcomes that change how we approach our business. And along the way, we strengthen our community by inviting a new tribe member to join us!

What questions might you ask to help you explore and discover with a colleague how you can help each other get needs met? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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