Not always, but often.
Collaboration can be a good excuse for people to do less work, hide inadequacies, and demand more of others, and receive the same level of credit or honour as the rest of the group.
It can also be a source of frustration for those with creativity and multiple abilities, mixed with a leadership gift set and ambition. They will usually feel shorted by the group.
Ok, that sounds pessimistic, but fairly realistic. Keep in mind this is coming from a person who normally preaches ‘team’ to churches and organizations. It is a reality that should be preached equally alongside the ‘lets work together’ badge being handed out.
Believe it or not, Breaking Bad (S2 E9) gives a good picture of where collaboration puts its best foot forward.
Stranded in the desert, seemingly at the end of their rope, our motley partnership of Walt and Jesse run out of ideas to get their RV/lab running again. Walt has a coughing fit, thinking his cancer is taking it’s final run at his life, and he contemplates all he has done to come this far. Lies, illegal activity, burning the candle at both ends…all to leave something behind for his family. Before this moment he had become a demanding boss to his partner in crime, making the relationship a little strained.
As he lays on his cot, lamenting the life he is about to lose, Jesse snaps and calls him on his giving up. As Jesse rambles on about Walt needing to come up with a ‘science’ answer to the problem, Walt springs back to life. Jesse somehow gets the wheels turning in Walt’s mind, and the solution to their problem is found.
Jesse comes across as the lesser partner in their business relationship. But he serves a purpose in their project. He somehow awakens the creativity and know-how in the leader. He cannot help with how it all comes together, but he is the encouragement and assistance where needed. This struck me as I thought of how often it happens in other settings. It is not always the know-how or directives that make the team come to life, it is those who must implement.
(Sorry if I spoiled the episode for you, but it has been out for some time now!)
This is not a call to finding more lackeys to make your dreams come to life. It is a call to remember that your team might not work if you think you are the only one who can make it all happen. And if you are the lackey, you might start to ask yourself how you got there.
True collaboration on a team means a unified mission and values, where each individual makes the whole better suited to bring things to fruition. It is equal footing to ask tough questions throughout the process and encourage others to use their tools and giftedness to the best of their ability. Accountability to what each member says they will do and the quality in which it is done is always a key part of the story, but so is encouragement and help along the way.