The joy of collaboration

dcs3478I was just listening to a wonderful NPR story on FDR's Civilian Conservation Corps. It was very moving to hear some of the people who'd worked on those projects talk about how it was the best time of their lives—even though they didn't have much money and the work was very hard. One fellow said, "We still get together every year. We remember how we all started out with nothing, and we became something together." As a sole proprietor, I work alone. I hire subcontractors, and I have a sales rep I really like, but we are all working for ourselves in this scenario. There is a very different feeling when I am in a group and we all work together toward a single goal. I miss that feeling.

I don't know if being one against the world is natural to me. The best worklife I've had was when I had colleagues at my same level in a company. Last year, at a good-sized corporation, my fellow managers and I worked to implement new procedures that lead to better quality work, easier communication, and greater engagement. It was hard work; we did it in addition to our regular 50- and 60-hours a week of work. We came in early in the morning so we could talk without interruption. Some of these women came a long way; one had a small child. We had to overcome some big company inertia, scepticism on the part of some higher-ups. But it was some of the best work I've done.

These days, I get that sensation when I meet with the Biz Diva's mastermind group once a month. It's quite amazing what 6 or 7 smart businesswomen can do when they all concentrate their powers on a single challenging situation. Over the years, I've seen some amazing changes. Of course, to be part of a group, you have to give up some things. You have to give up the defensiveness and the belief that you know it all—qualities that often protect business owners.

And you have to be willing to give. You must put aside your concerns about your own business and give all your brains and heart to helping your colleague. This doesn't really seem to be a problem for most women—I don't know if it's a gender thing or what, but it is really heartening and joyful the way the women will listen, support, and then give feedback in a non-judgemental and understanding way. It's often difficult for me to make myself go to one of these meetings. I dread admitting that I'm having problems. Oh, but once I do, I am full of gratitude at the acceptance and the invaluable help I've been given.

So what do you do? How do you get that collaborative fix? Or are you one of those types who don't need that feeling? I'm really curious!

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This post was written by Virginia Reuter of Ardentio for the Biz Diva.

CogitationCynthia Riggs