Part seven of a seven part series on the seven little helpers for dialogue and action
- Part 1: Presence
- Part 2: Have a good question
- Part 3: Use a talking piece
- Part 4: Harvest
- Part 5: Make a wise decision
- Part 6; Act
7. Stay together.
Our final little helper in this series is maybe the most important and it perhaps brings us back to the beginning again. Quite simply, if you have taken the time to do good work, the best way to ensure that it is sustainable over time is to stay together. Important work requires a strong relationship between people that can hold the work as it moves, grows, changes, and sometimes fails. As my colleague Tuesday Ryan-Hart says, “relationship is the result.” Good work done in the absence of good relationship rarely fulfills its potential.
I remember watching an American sports broadcast of the FIFA World Cup in 2010, with German legend Jürgen Klinsmann reporting as a correspondant for ESPN from the French team’s training camp. The French team imploded that summer, a team that had squeaked into the Finals on a poor refereeing decision to begin with. The team scored only one goal in the group stages and lost all three of its games. The players revolted and brawled with coaches and administrators. It was horrible.
When asked why the team was performing so badly on the pitch by the American sports anchors, Klinsmann stared incredulously into the camera and said “because they don’t like each other; they are not friends.” The Americans blinked dumbfoundedly at an answer that seemed to come from a kindergarten teacher. But to anyone that has played a game like football, (or hockey or basketball and other “flow” sports) you will know EXACTLY what Klinsmann was saying: without good relationships, it is impossible for talent to perform at its potential. Staying together is everything.
So here are a few principles to keep that going.
Give equal attention to action and relationship. Relationship is sustainability. Developing and practicing good working relationships is essential. The fruits of good relations are borne when times get tough and if you haven’t been actively practicing as you go, it will be too late to draw on those resources when you’re in a hole. Find ways, in all of your strategic work, to also do the work of maintaining trust, respect, generosity, and honesty. Have string enough relationships that there is no fear to call each other to account, because you all know that it is for the greater good. Every planning session, every update meeting, every community consultation is a chance to generate good results and good relationship. Make sure you build in co-responsibility to care for the quality of relationship as well as the quality of results.
Check in with one another to maintain healthy relationship last based on openness, trust and support. There is a personal aspect to this, and team members should be doing their work to create productive and healthy relationships. Take time to celebrate and to socialize. Build in depth to your relationships. The best teams I have ever been on are with people who become trusted friends, and even if our work goes sideways or our working relationships crumble, we can walk away still holding each other in high esteem. It isn’t easy and that is what makes it worthy.
Whenever possible create and work with conditions for reciprocity, gifting and mutual support. The biggest lessons I have learned from healthy indigenous communities and organizations focus on this. Reciprocity, gifting, and mutual support are practically essential features of every indigenous group I have ever worked with. You simply cannot show up in these spaces self-centred, single-mindedly focused on transactional work, or unwilling to offer mutuality and support. Organizations and communities who hold a high ethic around these issues tend to be resilient and generative over time. So accept the invitation to decolonize your approach to relationships, especially when you walk into a place holding power and privilege.
I hope this series has been useful and inspiring. It’s been fun reading the comments and the additional insights. If you have more to add later but find the comments closed, please contact me and let me know.