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Key Principles for Peer-to-Peer and Large Group Collaboration

I was surprised to find myself feeling anxious about sharing my draft of a proposal for input and editing. Even though I’ve collaborated a million times before, this felt different.   I realized that this proposal would not only be the first time my associate and I would do a writing collaboration, but we were also doing so as peers. In many previous business situations, I almost always had ultimate decision authority.  This felt murkier.

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As much as I believed we would make great partners on this project, I had several concerns, including our fast approaching deadline.  Because my schedule allowed me to get started sooner, I began writing. And then I began to wonder if after all the work I had done, she might suggest an entirely different approach, perhaps one that I would totally disagree with! What if she hated what I wrote?  I didn’t want to waste our time and energy.   I realized that I wished we had done more project planning upfront. Without that, my inner critic and my imagination were making me crazy.

We were on a tight deadline, so I decided to let it go and trust that we could work through whatever arose.  As much as I hated giving up control in that moment, I decided to believe in our ability to manage through challenging situations.  After all, what if her additions and perspective sealed the deal for us?  Isn’t that the outcome that I truly wanted?  In the end, it was more important to me that we have a good product, than it was to have the project done my way  - even if it cost me some “lost” time.

As soon as I understood what was going on for me, a light went on.  Working on a peer-to-peer collaboration is not so different from a large-scale collaboration. So I took action.   I shared my concerns with her so we could set some agreements.  As it turned out, my partner in crime did not even want to start editing my work, but preferred to start drafting her own approach.   While this seemed inefficient to me, I honored her way of working.  Once she completed her draft, we decided to sit together and discuss our individual perspectives.   I appreciated that her draft took a totally different tact than mine, as it brought fresh ideas that would strengthen our submission.

We determined what we liked about each other’s responses to the proposal questions, and divided up the editing and integration work so we could make the best use of our time. We had a few disagreements which we discussed, and then agreed how to proceed.  There were times that I didn’t absolutely know “the right answer”, so I went with what seemed to make the most intuitive sense.  Overall, our process worked well.  Most importantly, I felt really good about our finished product, which was richer and deeper as a result of our shared contributions. 

This experience highlights some key some key principles that make collaborations successful, regardless of the number of contributors.  Here are the things we eventually got right:

1)   Connection: We took time to communicate and hash through our concerns and needs.

2)   Alignment: We had a common goal - to submit a proposal in a timely manner that would win us the work.

3)   Trust: We trusted one another and respected each other’s strengths and process even though we have different work styles.

4)   Collaborative Methodology: We agreed on a work flow, including a way to resolve conflicts and meet deadlines

5)   Accountability: We held ourselves accountable for the work and the timelines to which we had committed.

6)   Recognition: We recognized each other’s contributions, and went with the best idea, even when it wasn’t our own.

Time and time again, these key principles appear. I hope they are helpful to you.  Good luck on your next collaboration and love to hear how this lands, and what has and hasn’t worked for you.

To learn more, contact Catherine at for a complimentary consultation.