The little secrets of collaboration: How you make me feel

There are people that use quotes for just about anything. It becomes a language in and of itself, and it then often feels like a dysfunctional marketing discourse, devoid of any meaning that was contained in the quotes originally.

Yet a good quote is worth a lot. It’s like a picture but in words – it’s worth 1000 other words – and if it’s a really good quote, you keep discovering different layers of meaning to it.

As I embark today on this new series – which may never go very far – about the ‘little secrets of collaboration’, here is a first post, encapsulated in one quote that I cherish:


There is so much truth about this one!

Collaboration is a human-to-human phenomenon. And so it relies heavily on human emotions and connections. All the little things that contribute to develop ‘trust’.

The implications of this saying are profound both in positive and in negative ways. And somehow – perhaps the result of my recent gender bias – it’s got to do with cultivating empowerment among the people we live and work with.

Trust (Credits: Joi Ito / FlickR)

In a positive light, ‘how you make me feel’ is about all the little signs and attentions that give you the impression you are seen, heard, respected, invited, embraced, honoured, appreciated – and it’s also the stuff of the great leaders that inspire you to transform yourself and your surroundings, that give make you believe that ‘the impossible is possible’ (I just watched ‘Mary Poppins returns’ and I can’t recommend it enough), and that you can play a role in it.

In a negative light, ‘how you make me feel’ is about all the little snarky comments; it’s the faces that frown and make you feel insecure about yourself because they seem so disappointed themselves watching you; it’s the consistent putting you away in a corner and doing it themselves because blatantly they just don’t trust you… and it goes all the way to the downright toxic comments that “you will never make it”, “you are stupid” and more. All these negative behaviours might still just about work for a short-term ‘contractual’ type of relationship, but certainly not for a partnership that is meant to develop over time and/or achieve great things.

In a recent assignment I realised – alas from the negative side – how true this saying is, and how I actually don’t want to work with people that make me feel disempowered. For short assignments, perhaps it doesn’t matter so much, but certainly it does matter a great deal to me for more regular contact and work with such people.

So sharpen your radar for each other’s empathy, because that’s the stuff of true collaborators, and of collaborations that bring true change about.

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Published by Ewen Le Borgne

Collaboration and change process optimist motivated by ‘Fun, focus and feedback’. Nearly 20 years of experience in group facilitation and collaboration, learning and Knowledge Management, communication, innovation and change in development cooperation. Be the change you want to see, help others be their own version of the same.

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