What Kind of Collaborative Partner Are You?

by Anne Yurasek on November 29, 2009

1384952210_81c119458cOver the course of working on collaborative models for fifteen years, we have noticed that organizational leaders who seek collaboration fall into three distinct types.   We call them (1) Peer; (2) Expert; and (3) Servant leader.   Some organizational leaders hold true to type in every collaboration in which they participate; others are more strategic in choosing a psychological stance toward a particular opportunity.   Just as there is no "wrong" personality type, there is no "wrong" negotiating style.  Let's look at each type:

  1. Peer:  these collaborative participants put a lot of faith in process.  They believe that, if the right process steps are followed, and if their collaborative partners engage in the process with integrity, both a strong relationship and a solid, positive outcome will emerge.  They are likely to insist on jointly developed ground rules for who will lead meetings, how decisions will be made, how problems will be addressed, how grievances will be handled, etc.  They feel that clear guidelines and procedures help to avoid inefficient process—-and having these discussions early helps potential partners learn about one another's working styles and priorities.
  2. Expert:  these collaborative participants have a very clear idea of what they are trying to accomplish by participating in the collaboration.   They do not always share what their true goals are, feeling that they can teach their partners over time and use their superior knowledge to influence how the relationship evolves.    They are slower to commit to written agreements and insist on strongly influencing the content of any agreements that do emerge.   They tend to object to any constraining structures, such as ground rules or strict procedural rules, preferring to use their significant knowledge and ability to hold sway or lead the discussions.
  3. Servant Leader:  these collaborative participants take a facilitative and supportive approach to relationship building.  While they have goals, they see themselves as achieving those goals through influential relationships with other organizations that have been gained through support of those other organizations.   They view organizational relationships as organic and evolving and define their role in reaction to what the other organizations involved do, say or want.   Pursuing their mission occurs as opportunities arise within these relationships.

We find it helpful to encourage our clients to think through what their strategy is in each collaborative effort.   Much like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator can help a team of individuals understand one another's work styles, a discussion of basic approach to the collaborative process can help leaders become more aware of their own conscious or unconscious choices about their own underlying assumptions.

So what type of collaborative partner are you?  Peer? Expert? Servant Leader?  Have you seen these types in action? What have you observed?

How We Can Help:  FIO Partners' model for assisting organizations to develop healthy cultural norms is called a synergogical model.  It is, in and of itself, a learning tool and is used to help a group structure discussions around important topics and come to consensus on what the "best" answer is.  There is no right answer…only the one that the group believes will best serve its purposes.  If you would like to know more about organizational norms, see our free article (with email registration) on this topic.   If you sign up for our blog via email or our quarterly newsletter before December 31st or are already on our blog or newsletter list, just send an email to info@fiopartners.com and let us know if you would like a to receive our norms tool for free (typically a $75 value) and we will send it along.  

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks

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