Collaborate? Why, yes! As soon as we iron out some norms.

Let’s work together….

Coaches love to work together. We find such work generative and innovative, exciting and life-giving.

It can also provide us with an opportunity to practice setting and maintaining our boundaries that, in the moment, can feel uncomfortable at best and untenable at worst.

When deciding to work together, we need do two things:

1. Set up norms for our work

2. Decide how to end the relationship

The partnership research recommends deciding how to divorce when still in the courting phase of the partnership. Going into business with another person, they say, is like a marriage. It would be much easier to have the divorce if everything were settled before we get married in the first place.

The purpose of the divorce conversation is to maintain the friendship after the working relationship ends. A good example of this is a start-up that is interested in building the company to its Initial Public Offering (IPO) and then selling it off to a much larger corporation. Successful partnerships start with answering questions around how to dissolve the company, how the money from the sale of the company will be divvied up, and who will stay on to help the transition to the new parent firm. Once the company has been sold, the divorce is easy and painless assuming all initial agreements are honored.

As coaches, we may work together in any number of configurations, so that is a good place to start the discussion with our coaching colleagues. Each has its own legal and administrative requirements, and longer-term partnerships will require some research into those legal and administrative requirements.

Probably the most common type of partnering we encounter is when a colleague who has an opportunity approaches us to join them in coaching an organization, a department, or a team. In these instances, the pull is to get right to building the coaching and to focus on serving the client without taking care of the coaching group first. As exciting as it is to build something with a group of energetic coaches, it is essential that norms be set before work gets started.

To set norms, we need to get explicit about how we like and need to work, who will take the lead, how we will contact one another, when we expect a reply from our colleagues, and when and how the coaching colleagues will meet.

To achieve these conversations, I recommend the following conversation topics:

  1. Tactics:

  2. How will we communicate with one another? E.g., Emails, texts, phone, Zoom, MS Teams, Google?

  3. When are we available to each other? E.g., Any time? Not available evenings and weekends?

  4. When will we meet to go over the project? E.g., Weekly? Bi-weekly? After each coaching session? Before and/or after visiting the organization?

  5. Who will be the lead on the project? (It may seem obvious that it would be the person who got the gig in the first place, and even if that is the case, it needs to be stated out loud—trust me on this one.)

  6. Administrative tasks? Who will be responsible for creating agreements, statements of work, invoices, and any reports? When will these be completed?

  7. Preference:

  8. How does each person like to work? I highly recommend using the activity listed below to get at this topic.

  9. Goal:

  10. What is the goal for this work? While it may seem obvious, it is important to get out loud about each person’s goal. And it is important to decide if the goals support each other or if they are too different for this group to work.

  11. Conflict:

  12. What word will we use to let each other know we are going to disagree? E.g., a safe word.

  13. Do we require hedging and disclaimers? E.g., “I may be wrong about this, but…. I’m not sure, however…. What is in my thinking here is…. The story I’m making up is….”

  14. What sort of conflict is too much conflict? When do we need to move to dissolution?

  15. Dissolution:

  16. The group may dissolve when the coaching agreement ends. What will make that a positive event? How will we celebrate?

  17. What if someone needs to leave the group before the coaching agreement ends?

  18. What will you do if the coaching agreement is extended?

  19. How could one person bring up the need to leave the group?

  20. What would be the best way to separate from each other and maintain the relationship?

  21. Anything else that needs to be discussed.

  22. What is coming up for you as you read this?

  23. What do you need?

  24. What is a no-go for you?


Think back to different committees, task forces, and workgroups you have been part of in your working life.

Things That Went Wrong

What did not work? List the major themes; be specific.

Things That Went Right

Now, come back and think about what worked really well. When were there moments of pure energizing collaboration? What were the highlights that stood out for you? What are the themes in what works for you?

Five Things That Went Right

In your group, pick five of the Things That Went Right from your lists that you want to make sure are implemented in your group. Come to consensus on these five things.

1. _________________________________________________________________

2. _________________________________________________________________

3. _________________________________________________________________

4. _________________________________________________________________

5. _________________________________________________________________

What Does That Look Like?

Working as a group, explain the five items above in behavioral terms. For example, if “Sharing ideas freely,” was one of your norms, how would someone watching your group know that you share ideas freely?

1. _______________________________________________________________________

2. _______________________________________________________________________

3. _______________________________________________________________________

4. _______________________________________________________________________

5. _______________________________________________________________________

What is the goal for the project?

Not just doing a good job or getting paid, what is the goal for the project that is shared by everyone in the group?

Keep these and revise as necessary. Especially revise with each new project.

And as always, get coached on it! Seriously, get a coach to help you navigate this discussion!

©Wendy Cook, Evergreen Business Coach, 2021

18 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All