Wednesday, January 17, 2007


I have always admired married couples who can make a living working together.  This, of course, was the common practice on farms.  The division of labour varied from farm to farm.  Some had well-defined roles, some tended more to step in for each other, switching places when the need arose.  In our urban world couples go in different directions to make their contributions.  So when I see couples running consulting businesses, medical practices or stores I always pause to admire their collaborative ability, to wonder what happens at work on the days when they wake up mad from last night’s dispute over who should take the kids to hockey.


We got a little taste of the collaborative experience last weekend.  David was asked to facilitate a board retreat and he asked if I would help.  We didn’t discuss the terms of my helping, but I think he was thinking I might add music.  We planned to sit down and talk about it some time. 


We have done a lot of things together, made children, cooked dinners, taken square dance lessons, planned vacations and the like.  And we have always agreed about work.  Our work is different.  When we talk about work, we know that he would hate my work, and I would hate his.  


Before we got around to working out the details of this project, there came a request for us to circulate some advance material.  David ought to have done this, but he was swamped at work, so I circulated some advance material, stuff I would have proposed if I had been doing it alone.  Now we were in uncertain territory.  Both of us had done planning retreats at work, these separate works. But the processes had been different.  The goals had been different.  We would have to figure out how to plan together, how to bring out the best in both of us.  We would have to figure out what to do if we saw things differently. 


When the retreat was over we agreed that we were pleased with the results.  We did develop a rhythm.  Each of us was able to step in to implement the other person’s ideas.  We were able to switch leadership back and forth.  We could change plans during the process.  Despite our different backgrounds, thirty-three years of collaborating experience had served us well. 



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