Collaboration. A buzzy word these days. Buzz-worthy for sure. Questions like, how do we collaborate more effectively? How do we become more effective interacting with others – especially those not like us or those who don’t share our points of view? Diversity of people equals diversity of thought. This is a good thing, right? Then why does it sometimes feel not-so-good? We often experience this discomfort daily as we work with multidisciplinary team meetings with a mix of personalities, styles, and priorities as we strive to solve a problem or follow through on ideas. In fact, collaboration can be very difficult, challenging work.
Now, if you are thinking, collaboration comes easy to you or your organization. Then I might ask, are you really pushing the boundaries? Are you taking enough risk? Are you sure you aren’t subject to group-thinking? Are you unconsciously (or consciously) avoiding conflict because of the emotions involved? Those who study collaboration say the best collaboration, also comes with conflict. Healthy, productive conflict is valuable and leads to high performance teams.
Yet, most would say this can be difficult. What makes it difficult? The simple answer is that Emotions Drive People. People Drive Collaboration. So, it follows Emotions Drive Collaboration. Or, in some cases, emotion derails collaboration. Well then, how do we keep it healthy? How do we effectively help ourselves and others navigate emotions to support greater collaboration?
Last year, I was honored to work with the a medical-industry marketing firm, Market Ready Rx, on this concept of “Navigating Emotions”  as they endeavored to more intentionally bring Emotional Intelligence (EQ) skills to their practice of supporting organizations to launch a product. Market Ready Rx teams engage with clients during emotionally charged product launches. Market Ready Rx needed to understand more about how to provide a positive experience to its customers. Clients have high expectations when bringing products to market. Integrating the Market Ready Rx team into a multi-disciplinary launch team had to be seamless.
Collaboration is the special sauce that has allowed Market Ready Rx to plug-and-play into fast moving marketing organizations. Yet, sometimes we can ‘do’ things well, without really knowing ‘how’ we are exactly doing it. Without, the awareness of ‘how’, it can be difficult to consistently practice the behaviors that are leading to our success.
So, what’s the main ingredient in their special sauce for collaboration? Market Ready Rx has been practicing it all along and it is called V.E.T. which stands for Validate, Explore, Transform. Collaboration is an emotional process and armed with the V.E.T. process, one can help clients navigate the emotions that might undermine a collaboration process. Just importantly, with V.E.T., individual can also tap into the emotions that fuel collaboration.
1. VALIDATE: In the face of emotions that act as barrier to collaboration, our first step to connecting with others (or ourselves) is to ‘Validate’ the emotion. This begins with naming the feeling. Angry, Sad, Surprised, Fearful, Disgust? Just helping people name their emotions helps them feel better. We call this “Name it to Tame it” and through the work of Dr. Dan Siegel, we know our brains calm down from just this first step .
It’s also important to not judge the emotion. It is just their personal truth – what they are feeling. It’s important to understand that validating an emotion for another person doesn’t mean you must agree or understand it. You are simply recognizing it. It’s not something that is right, wrong, good, or bad. I’ve found it’s more helpful to think that some emotions are pleasant to feel and other are unpleasant. Comfortable versus uncomfortable, not good or bad. Because when we say something is good or bad, we are making a judgement. With that judgement, we want to invalidate or suppress. Instead, it just IS. And if you are willing to look for it, there is wisdom in all emotion. You just need to put in the work to get real and discover the important messages behind what we feel.
2. EXPLORE: This is where the work accelerates. Exploration is about peeling back the onion and looking at all the layers. First, is there a more nuanced way to name the feeling? For example, is the fear, anger, or sadness that often gets in the way of collaboration better described as disappointed, distrustful, impatient, resentful, dejected, wary, or depleted (to name only a few)? We call this further exploration of naming emotion, “Enhancing Emotional Literacy” . Getting more descriptive and drawing these distinctions helps us gain insight about what is really at the core of our emotions.
We also expand on our understanding by posing questions to ourselves or others. For example,
- “When have I/you felt this way before?”
- “Is there a pattern to this feeling?”
- “What is… at risk? In my way? Going away that I care about? Being violated? Being challenged? Unexpected?
- “What is this emotion trying to tell me?
- “What is important about this message?”
Through this exploration we can uncover the wisdom of our emotions. This wisdom is a strategic resource in collaboration, decision-making, and problem-solving.
3. TRANSFORM: The by-product of good validation and exploration is Transformation. You cannot force Transformation – it emerges. Sometimes it comes quickly. Other times it takes a lot of work through reflection and discussion. The transformation has arrived when parties begin to see options and alternatives. It arrives with new perspectives and a shift in perception. It is when creativity, ingenuity, and wisdom emerges due to an authentic investment in the exploration of the emotions involved.
With transformation, the emotions are now out on the table and addressed. They are addressed either through new options or paths forward. Or it can simply be an acknowledgement the emotions are real and honored, thus allowing the individual to move forward.
Of course, it’s worth noting I’ve chosen to focus on V.E.T. with those ‘uncomfortable or unpleasant’ feelings that can get in the way of collaboration. It’s just as important to tune into the pleasant emotions that fuel collaboration. There is just as much wisdom in those to set up your organization for repeatable collaboration success in the future.
Mariaelena Welch, PCC, CEQC
 “Navigate Emotion” is one of the eight Emotional Intelligence Competencies the Six Second’s EQ Network’s EQ in Action Model: 6 seconds.org
 “Name it to Tame it” is a term popularized by Dr. Dan Siegel related to the neuroscience research on the benefits of naming emotion: www.drdansiegel.com.
 “Enhance Emotional Literacy” is one of the eight Emotional Intelligence Competencies the Six Second’s EQ Network’s EQ in Action Model: 6 seconds.org.