Disney’s Marvel Studios will launch Shang-Chi and Legend of the Ten Rings this week. I saw a similarity between some critical attributes of collaboration and the powers of the ten rings (as described in Marvel comics canon.). Enjoy this timely exploration of collaborative attributes and attitudes we all need to keep top of mind. Every time you enter a collaborative experience, check to see if you have your ten rings. Those best at collaboration will know when to brandish them, and when to practice patience.
Collaboration and the Ten Rings
Manners. Black Light. It is important that people working collaboratively do so with good manners. Don’t overload people’s inboxes with useless messages. Respect your peers. Those who don’t bring good manners to collaborative engagements risk invoking the Black Light and sucking all of the light and joy out of physical or virtual work experiences.
Engagement. Flame Blast. If people aren’t engaged, they either don’t show up to collaborate, or they don’t participate when they do arrive. Every person involved in collaborative work needs to connect, and to connect with the work—and that requires passion, and passion generates heat. The Flame Blast incandesces the air, which is what teams need to do—build a fire in and around their teams, keep them warm, keep the flames stoked to avoid boredom, complacency, and malaise.
Master your tools. Matter Rearranger. Productive working environments require the effective use of collaboration tools. Meetings. Annotations. E-mail. Workflow. Chat and posts. The tool rearranges to meet the needs of the moment. The malleability of tools acts as either an opportunity to excel via mastery or to appear weak as one overwhelmed by their environment. Great team members will master their tools and wield them like the Matter Rearranger to create the best environment possible to help achieve the goals of the moment.
Design the right team. Disintegration Beam. It is important to think about the composition of the teams, or the communities of task—the people who work together. Most of the time general competencies get drawn upon rather than specific skills needed for the task at hand. Step back and design the team. Think about roles, responsibilities, servant leadership, and engaging the right expertise for the job. Poorly designed teams may well fuel the disintegration beam that results in inefficiency, perhaps failure.
Focus on the task at hand. White light. It is easy to get distracted. The best collaboration experiences understand focus. They may not always focus, but they focus when it counts. Shining a white light on the task at hand can help produce results by eliminating distractions.
Agree on how you will disagree. Ice Blast. Disagreement proves inevitable when it comes to working with each other. Manners only go so far, because, at some point, even an open and frank conversation may lead to an impasse. When that happens, effective teams put protocols in place to help them work through their stalemates and conflicts. The Ice Blast removes the heat from the conversation and allows consideration, perhaps objectivity, to return.
Decide on how you will decide. Impact Beam. It is just as important to decide on how decisions get made. Teams need to define the edges of compromise. Decisions don’t start with mediating conflict, although that can be a part of the process—more importantly, good decision practice hinges on agreements about data and logic, about what matters, what can’t be compromised, as well an understanding of the scope of compromise. A decision reverberates through an organization, just as the Impact Beam exudes concussive forces. All decisions create an impact. Focusing impacts and doing so with the right intent often shapes difficult decisions toward more positive perceptions and more inclusive ones toward faster implementation.
Adopt operating principles. Electro-Blast. Effective teams discuss their approach to work before they start the work. Some of the other areas on this list may be included, like how to make decisions, or how to resolve conflict—but operating principles also include when to meet, what tools to use, how to share credit, reporting, and other elements that make up the day-to-day operation of the team. Everything in nature connects through electricity—operating principles become the conduct for collaborative energy, and by agreeing to principles, the Electro-Blast flows through the collaborative pathways and energizes the work.
Effective communications. Vortex Beam. Words can calm. Words can inform. Words can annoy, and they can enrage. Choose words carefully, don’t be nonchalant or dismissive. Words matter. Be concise and honest in feedback. Say what needs to be said and no more. Write well. Listen well. Consider what you say before saying it. Revise your words until they say what you want them to say. Words become collaboration’s atmosphere, they swirl electronically and aurally. People type and people talk. Effective communications can be the Vortex Beam that propels the team forward, or it can become a weapon that destroys relationships from within, and reputations from without.
Practice collaboration. Mento-intensifier. The only way to get better at collaboration is to collaborate purposefully. That means reflecting on the practice, learning how to do it better, and working with others. Reflection—getting meta—results in better collaboration experiences for individuals and for teams. Reflection—mindfulness—and purpose become the Mento-intensifier that invigorates teams to reach above mundane collaboration into the realm of heroic collaboration.
Ideas about how to improve work experiences too often find themselves wrapped in sacred cloth. Hopefully by having a bit of fun with how we work will help bring joy to discovering new ways to work better. Perhaps the ten rings will connect you with your inner hero.
For more serious insights on collaboration click here.