Five Tips for Successful Passion-Based Collaboration

If you are like me, you collaborate often,  but you are accustomed to being the passionate catalyst for any collaborative project. So what happens when you become a part of a voluntary and highly passionate team, and you want to collaborate successfully? You could end up being your own worst enemy. These tips will help you collaborate with people just as passionate as you are – and if you keep them in mind, I promise you will be amazed at the results!

1. Accept the vision of others, and hold your vision close

As a passion-based project begins, the team will agree on an overall vision, but as time goes on, the details of this vision can be difficult to work through. If you insist that your version of the vision is most important, you are likely to lose your collaborators, or you might just throw your hands up and leave the team altogether. Create a corner of the project that is yours, and remember that not everyone has to follow your path.  Come together with the team to be sure that where roles and responsibilities intersect the team is moving together well, but accept that passionate people will need a place for their individual passion to play out.

2. Be transparent in your thinking

We may be used to being the sole voice of authority in our local context, but when we move into a global context with highly passionate team-mates, our voice will not be the deciding one.  It’s very important to be transparent with recommendations or strong feelings you have about decisions that might or might not be best for the project. You can’t expect that highly passionate people will just follow your lead or take your recommendations especially if they (like you) are used to their own recommendations being accepted without question. It’s important to take the advice of St. Francis on this point: Seek first to understand, and then to be understood.

3. Be open to the outcome, not attached to it

I first heard this from Michele Dickey-Kotz well over a decade ago, but I never really understood what it meant until I was up to my knees in a passion-based project that I very much wanted to work, but didn’t understand. The project was very big. We had a road map; we had a goal in mind; and the steps we were taking seemed to be getting us to the goal. However, I just didn’t feel things were going “right”. Things were going on, and I wasn’t sure how they fit. Other things were going on that I thought might be taking us away from our goal. I had to take deep breaths and realize the outcome of this project had yet to be revealed. Our goal was broad, and allowed for individual interpretation, so it was natural that the project did the same to a certain extent. In this case, I had to accept that even though the steps toward the goal were not what I had envisioned, progress was being made. I often tell my students to trust the process. It’s much more difficult to put this in action, especially when the project is high-stakes and very visible.

4. Remember that the relationship is more important than the outcome

Being in a relationship with people over a nine month or one year period, as you are conducting a project you are all passionate about is no different from being in any other intimate relationship. There are bound to be disagreements: times that metaphorically you pass each other in the doorway and just don’t speak, because you are frustrated and maybe things just aren’t going your way. This frustration is never personal. It’s borne out of our own need to be good at what we do – and sometimes – our need to be perfect. Letting go of this need, and trusting our colleagues to be strong when we are at the end of our rope can sometimes be just the right strategy. When all else fails remember the relationship, and start from that point.

5. Remember the passion that brought you to the project in the first place

There was a reason your passion brought you to this project. Remember that reason when you start to feel that your own goals are being overwhelmed by the competing goals within the project. Your goal may have been to give your students the opportunity to learn with people of a different culture or background. Your goal may have been to broaden your own knowledge base. Your goal might have been to help underserved individuals. Whatever your passion – it still exists and the need that spurred you into signing up is still there, even when your energy level and patience is at its lowest.

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