December 2013 marked the 2-year anniversary of the release of the book The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell. Since its release, the book has evolved into a thriving global community and not-for-profit social enterprise called the 7 Graces Project CIC. In addition, our 7 Graces website has received over 2.3 million page views from over three-quarters of a million visitors in 2013.
To celebrate the continually evolving energy of this movement for ethical business and marketing, I’ve been writing a 7-part series with some of my personal reflections on the nature of the ‘7 Graces’ themselves. Today we finally reach the 7th and final instalment. If you missed any of the first 6 articles, you can catch up with them here:
Today, we look at Grace #7 (the favourite of many people in our community): the Grace of Collaboration.
Why Some ‘Collaborations’ Fall Flat
Dozens of people every month contact me via email or social media saying something along the lines of, ‘I’ve heard a lot about you. Let’s collaborate!’ I tend to say, ‘OK. Let’s set up a Skype call.’ After all, you never know where things will lead. But over time, I have started to see a pattern: most relationships that started with the words ‘Let’s collaborate’ did NOT lead to any meaningful collaboration. It’s ironic, I know. Even when I would say ‘yes’ to such a proposition, they would fall by the wayside only a short time later.
I have my own theories as to why this is so. When someone you do not know says ‘Let’s collaborate’, they often have a pre-conceived idea of how they imagine you fitting into their own vision. While, on the surface, there might seem to be great collaborative potential between you, your individual visions may not have much in common, and your businesses may be heading in completely different directions. If this is the case, embarking on such a collaborative project could take you both off course and/or put demands on your time that interfere with the flow of your respective businesses.
The energy of such a so-called collaboration feels hard. It becomes a sluggish, uphill climb for both/all parties, where each of you is trying to make things ‘fit’ into the pre-conceived idea, rather than genuinely co-creating. It becomes a case of trying to fit the proverbial square pegs into round holes. It ends up feeling more like an obligation than a joy, and all parties end up compromising their vision to some degree.
Opportunities, Distractions and Discernment
When a collaboration ‘feels hard’ to us, it is not a genuine opportunity, no matter how good it may seem on the surface. Many are actually, in the words of one of my past mentors – Patrick Ryan – ‘distractions’ taking us off the trajectory of our true path. How can we tell the difference between an opportunity and a distraction before we get in too deep? That is what Patrick calls ‘the art of discernment’, and it’s one of the most valuable skills any human being can have – in business and in life.
Developing our own powers of discernment becomes a lot easier when we learn how to recognise the ‘red flags’ and ‘green flags’ of collaboration. For example, in my experience, the most successful collaborations I have had were NOT those that started with the words ‘I’ve heard a lot about you. Let’s collaborate’, but with the words, ‘I really like your message. Let’s get to know each other’. The first is a ‘red flag’ (or at least amber), the second a ‘green flag’. I’m not automatically discarding the possibility that the ‘red flag’ speaker is definitely a no-go. Sometimes people hide behind what they think are ‘professional-sounding’ words like ‘collaboration’; conversely, some people use ‘green flag’ words because they think it makes them sound nice (but they don’t really mean them). This is where discernment has to come into play. Discernment isn’t a logical process; logic will often send you in the direction of what ‘looks’ good. True discernment is the ability to read your own responses to a situation – and then listen to them.
How Genuine Collaborations Come from Genuine Relationships
The Latin-based prefix ‘col’ in the word ‘collaboration’ means ‘with’. If our collaborations are not based upon strong relationships, there is no way we can work with each other. All too often, people enter a collaboration saying things like, ‘Let’s explore how we can mutually benefit’ when what they are really thinking (perhaps unconsciously) is, ‘Let’s see how I can benefit by using what you have to offer me.’ If this intention is present in the space, your efforts will never result in true collaboration. True collaborations are not based upon such professional bartering, but upon relationships.
Sadly, many people in business are relationship-phobic (at least as far as their business is concerned). They are afraid of ‘showing their full hand’ to others. They are afraid people will steal their ideas, or dump them and go their own way, taking elements of their ‘collaboration’ with them. When these kind of fears exist, any attempt at a true collaboration is doomed to fail. It might ‘seem’ to be functioning – maybe even for years – but eventually it will crash and crumble. What is worse is that one or both parties will be so ‘burnt’ from the experience, they will pull their cards even closer to their chest, and become hesitant about forming collaborations with others in the future.
This kind of fear brings out competitiveness – the 7th ‘Deadly Sin’ in The 7 Graces of Marketing. The ‘Deadly Sin of Competition’ is the complete antithesis of the Grace of Collaboration. If we enter into an allegedly collaborative project with a competitive attitude, it will sabotage all of our good efforts. I’ve seen competitiveness act like a time-bomb in departmental teams back when I worked in the education sector. So much genius stayed in tiny little cubicles because competitiveness prevented them from truly working with each other to create amazing things.
Competition is the ultimate destroyer of relationships – both personal and professional.
Dancing with Our Differences
Speaking for myself, my most successful business collaboration has been with my 7 Graces Project co-director, Nancy Goodyear. Nancy and I have been friends since 2007. In the past, we tried to co-create various collaborative projects but while we found that we really ‘danced’ well when we co-led workshops, somehow we kept failing when it came to turning our dance into anything that resembled a business. We kept pushing and pulling each other in different directions. She was more introverted, I more extroverted. She preferred a pace that was slower and more considered, while I tended to want to zoom ahead. She enjoyed creating things that were looser and more open-ended, while I tended towards filling every little crevice.
But the most challenging difference between us was the fact that Nancy hated marketing, and I, being a marketer, was constantly trying to conquer her resistance to it. We were continually trying to force each other to ‘be’ more like ourselves. We were like the ‘Push-Me-Pull-You’ in the story of Doctor Dolittle (they do look pretty grumpy):
But fortunately, Nancy and I really like each other, and after 5 years of honing our friendship, we finally ‘got it’:
It was our differences – not just our similarities –
that were to be the KEY to our collaboration.
Because of Nancy’s pre-disposition against marketing, you might think her an unlikely candidate as a co-director of a non-profit group founded for the purpose of creating marketing courses. BUT, if you’ve read The 7 Graces of Marketing, you’ll know that one of the early chapters is called ‘Why Nice People Hate Marketing’. In fact, much of the earlier parts of the book talked about the underlying reasons why marketing was so distasteful to sensitive people. Nancy was exactly the kind of person for whom the book was written. What BETTER person could there be to work with me to co-create ethical, new paradigm marketing courses than someone who couldn’t stand marketing?
These days, Nancy and I work together to challenge the boundaries of business, training and marketing, and continually seek ways to create something genuinely new together – something that expresses a vision we both share.
And when we get it right, it feels so easy, so fresh and so rewarding.
Revisiting the Four Cornerstones of Collaboration
Back in March 2013 I wrote an article called Vision, Innovation, Trust, Ease – 4 Qualities of Collaboration. Throughout today’s article, I’ve shown examples of what happens to a collaboration when these four qualities (or cornerstone) are present, and when they are not:
VISION – True collaboration – the Grace of Collaboration – can only take place when the collaborators share a common vision. Without this, you will end up pulling each other in different directions. This vision needs to be articulated and rearticulated openly and regularly. The vision must also be allowed to refine itself and evolve with time. It cannot be ‘forced’. It is an organic, dynamic entity that exists beyond the collaborators themselves. The vision is the call from the Universe that says, ‘this needs to be created’. It is not an individual vision for personal gain. While everyone within a collaboration should benefit in some way, if this desire is at the forefront of their minds over and above the vision, the Grace of Collaboration will not manifest.
And (at the risk of sounding facetious) if you surrender your own vision to the vision of someone else, that’s called employment, not collaboration.
INNOVATION – The fruits of the Grace of Collaboration are always more than the sum of its parts. Collaboration is not merely a matter of two or more people coming together to ‘share the load’. It’s about creating something new that could never have been created without your coming together to act upon your shared vision.
TRUST – Trust is absolutely vital to the Grace of Collaboration. When trust is absent, it destroys the flow of your project and makes it feel like you’re swimming upstream. Real trust can only come with time. But also, it can only come when all of the previous 6 Graces are present between/amongst the collaborators: Connection, Inspiration, Invitation, Directness, Transparency and Abundance. If we harbour attitudes of scarcity, or try to dominate/persuade our partners, it is actually a sign of our own lack of ability to trust them.
EASE – Ease is both a symptom and an end-product of collaboration. When you feel like you’re struggling in your collaborative project, this ‘lack of ease’ should become your signal that one of the other 3 cornerstones – vision, innovation or trust – is lacking. When things feel ‘hard’ it’s time to stop and consider what is not working and why. When things genuinely feel easy AND you see your vision becoming reality, it means you’ve got it right.
We cannot ‘make’ collaboration happen; collaboration makes us.
Collaboration is not a thing we do; it’s a journey we make together.
Collaboration does not come from dividing up the tasks of a finite project; it comes from co-creating something without boundaries.
Collaboration requires surrender – to each other and to the vision. From that surrender arises the magic of what the Universe is calling you to create together.
True collaboration is a ‘spiritual’ experience in that it transcends anything that ‘makes sense’ to our linear minds.
For all these reasons, very few people have been fortunate enough to experience true collaboration. That’s precisely why Nancy and I have brought the practical experience of collaboration into our training courses at the 7 Graces Project. These courses are currently in ‘beta’ mode, and we’ll be launching them to the general public in the spring of 2014. I do hope you’ll subscribe to this blog and connect with us in our Facebook community so you’ll hear about them when they come out.
Coming Next Time…
This closes our 7-part retrospective on the 7 Graces. Next time, I’ll be continuing our theme of ‘collaboration’ in an article called ‘Taking a Collaborative Approach to Content Creation’, where we look at how we can collaborate with our ‘tribe’ to co-create content that is relevant, useful, inspiring, and expressive of our shared vision.
I hope you’ll drop by and give it a read. And please do leave a comment before you leave the site today. We always appreciate the feedback.
Oh, and by the way, if you’d like to get a free copy of the chapter ‘Why Nice People HATE Marketing’, plus 2 other chapters from The 7 Graces of Marketing, just go to http://spiritauthors.com/pages/bonus/why-nice-people-hate-marketing-request.html
7th January 2014
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Find out more about how changing the paradigm can help make the world a better place:
The 7 Graces of Marketing: how to heal humanity and the planet by changing the way we sell, by Lynn Serafinn, where you can learn how the 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Graces impact the world through media and marketing. Brit Writers Awards Finalist eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian & Ecological Social Issues
Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market Their Business Ethically by Lynn Serafinn, which can help you learn how to create meaningful collaborations through Twitter and other social media. eLit Book Awards Bronze Medal in Business and Sales.
Get instant access to a free 90-minute Twitter marketing class at http://tweepelicious.com
LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.
Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project CIC, a not-for-profit social enterprise created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.
(not just for Londoners, as we meet also on Skype)