“The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.” – Babe Ruth
Collaborate. Incubate. Collaboration. Incubation. Potent verbs. Evocative nouns. Language compromised by overuse. Overuse in terms of frequency, but also in terms of overgeneralized application. Genericized. Peppered across erroneous contexts. Trotted out like currency, displayed like ruffed grouse plumage to impress or intimidate. Potency diminished. Evocation enfeebled.
It’s funny how words (especially trendy buzzwords) and the notions they conjure in our minds give us the sometimes overconfident conviction that we understand one another. That we are communicating apples-to-apples and oranges-to-oranges. But maybe we aren’t. Or, at least, maybe sometimes we aren’t. We bob and nod and smile and volley words and ideas back and forth, feeling smug and productive and accomplished. And yet, a cartoonist might draw little thought bubbles above our heads betraying our inner monologues and assumptions and questions, thought bubbles that show a small and sometimes a huge discrepancy between the world collage we’re creating and any semblance of comprehension.
Collaboration in’t the plug-and-play gizmo we make it out to be. It’s hard work. Immensely rewarding, but challenging. Collaboration demands much of the contributors. Skills. Expertise. Commitment. Followthrough. Respect for one another. Humility. Ambition. Confidence in the potential for a sum greater than its constituent parts… And it requires a willingness to bridle ego in service to the team, a commitment to second personal pride to the potential for collective accomplishment.
Like I said, it’s hard work. But when everything falls into place, the rewards transcend productivity and accomplishment, which are ample and impressive. The ultimate reward is in the doing, in the collaboration itself. Teamwork, well executed, is immensely satisfying in and of itself.
So how do we incubate collaboration?
Bring together good people. Good skills. Good character. Good minds. Good work ethics. But ingredients don’t make a cake no matter how fine the quality, no matter how long you wait. They’re still just ingredients.
“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” – Henry Ford
A chef combines the ingredients and sets the chemistry in motion. A catalyst as invested and passionate and humble and ambitious as everyone else on the team. A leader. A captain. A shepherd. Successful collaboration usually originates in successful incubation. Let’s call this collaborative incubation. And then let’s invert the words for a moment… You with me?
If collaboration profits from (and often requires) incubation — and I’m convinced it does — then it’s worth reflecting on the relationship between collaboration and incubation.
Friday isn’t really TGIF for Rosslyn’s icehouse rehab team. For some members of the crew it’s starting time. As their workweek schedule reaches the finish line, their “side hustle” schedule reaches the starting line. So today, as we wind down another Monday-through-Friday and transition into another productive weekend, I’m feeling profoundly grateful to the many men and women who choose to make our work their work. Thank you for transforming our hopes and schemes into brick and mortar reality. With multiple concurrent projects underway at Rosslyn (icehouse, boathouse gangway, leftover deck rebuild projects, and inside the home), and some but not much overlap between them, there are too many individuals deserving thanks to list here. But there in one individual who keeps all of the moving parts in motion. One humble hustler guarantees that everything is progressing, collision-free. One reliable leader supports the entire team while ensuring quality control, upbeat and respectful morale, impeccable communication with Susan and me. I refer to this point person as the “air traffic controller”, and not just for the myriad projects at Rosslyn. She concurrently manages ADK Oasis Highlawn and ADK Oasis Lakeside, as well as the Westport Yacht Club. And we’re only about half of the properties in her portfolio.
I’m referring to Pam Murphy. She’s the glue that holds it all together. She’s the hub at the center of the spinning wheel. She’s the wizard wrangling hundreds of collaborators and plans and materials and deadlines. She’s the friend and colleague incubating collaboration day after day after day. And Susan and I are among the grateful beneficiaries. For years now. No buzzwords needed. Just profound respect for her intelligence, her intuitive interpersonal dynamics, her methodical organization and communication, her curiosity and appetite for learning, her perennial wellspring of energy, her empathy for everyone on the team, her attention to detail, her fierce loyalty to us and to everyone else with whom she works, her morally unambiguous clarity and conviction, and the confidence she has placed in us over the years to reciprocate the trust, respect, support, and affection that she has always given to us.
When I talk about collaboration, collaborative incubation, and incubating collaboration, the thought bubble above my head is a cartoon of Pam accomplishing a dozen tasks at once while she smiles and all of the cartoon figures around her smile along with her!
“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” – Amy Poehler
What do you think?