3 Keys to Leading Effective Collaboration

We had a wonderful time at our workshop talking through the mindset and skills needed to build productive and effective collaborations. Erin Murphy, the Principal of Collaborative Action  led us through a great session with both practical activities and theory behind collaboration. It was fascinating to learn how our own psychology can undermine our ability to work with others. When we conquer fear of all different types we become much more effective collaborators. The group also spent a good portion of the workshop talking through three keys for leading effective collaborations. This led into a discussion on strategies and foundational steps for achieving those keys.

Collaboration in Mind and Practice

One of the most exciting pieces from a BoCo Strong perspective was the importance of shifting from a scarcity mindset to an expansionist mindset. It’s obvious that we won’t always get all the money that we want for our projects, but we can use this as an opportunity. Being willing to engage in collective effort means that we need to recognize how time contributions, individual skill sets, and different cultural points of view are all vital resources in themselves. And through valuing the people within the collaboration as well as the outputs of their collective effort we create stronger, more sustainable work.

The other keys to collaboration really require strong self knowledge and awareness. Knowing what you want out of a collaboration as well as what you bring to it are vital. It’s also crucial to be comfortable with discomfort. Acknowledge that there will be tension in collaborations. Everyone comes from different perspectives and working with this can be a strength, but it won’t be a comfortable one. Build in time for examining and revisiting the places where conversations become uncomfortable. If there’s a willingness to dive in and brave the arctic chill of labels, stereotypes, cultural assumptions, or acknowledge different methods of working, understanding, and procedure, then it can create a rich and innovative collaboration. Just remember to bring snacks, encourage dance parties, and celebrate all scale of successes. Collaboration is hard because it involves a lot of humans. But that should make it a lot of fun too.

Check out the materials below for more insights and feel free to email me with any questions, thoughts, et cetera.

Resiliently yours,


Workshop Handout


Other Materials You May Enjoy

Collaborative Innovation Roadmap

Adaptive Leadership

How to Lead Collective Impact Working Groups

Biography for Erin Murphy

Erin O’Toole Murphy, Principal, Collaborative Action, LLC

Erin O’Toole Murphy is the Principal of Collaborative Action, LLC, a Boulder-based organization development consulting firm specializing in developing leaders and facilitating change. Her focus is collaborative leadership and executive team alignment. For over 18 years she has been a trusted advisor who brings system change theory and her astute insights on human dynamics to practical application for organizations that must get things done together. She is a trainer of ToP® Group Facilitation Methods, a TTI Success DISC coach, and co-author of Teamwork is an Individual Skill: Getting Work Done When Sharing Responsibility (Berrett-Koehler, 2001). Erin is a graduate of Northwestern University as a Big 10 Scholar-Athlete and holds a Master’s degree in Whole Systems Design with a concentration in Organization Development from Antioch University.