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One Person Is The Key To A Successful Collaboration

Teamwork only works when somebody’s in charge.

We’ve overpraised collaboration.

As necessary and beneficial as it can be, our collective obsession with being “good” collaborators has led us to overlook a key component of collaboration.

Collaborations only work when one person is in charge.

Without a clear leader, your collaboration will fail — paralyzed by people so determined to play nice with each other that they struggle to make decisions and take action.

You need a decision maker.

Collaborations are only as successful as the decisions they generate— and there are many to be made.

The problem, conversation, parameters, and solutions must be framed by one person who establishes a vision for what your collaboration is meant to accomplish.

Every collaborator can make suggestions, but ultimately one person must make decisions.

And the decisions are the most important part.

You need a leader.

Collaborators want to be inspired. Want to follow a strong leader. Want a vision to guide them.

Leadership doesn’t come from committees —it comes from leaders.

You need an individual who can bring the most out of their collaborators and enable the team to reach its potential.

You need focus.

Give four people the same problem to solve and watch their focus drift.

Because each person brings their own experience and biases to the table — they focus on the elements of the problem most familiar to them or the ones they’re most comfortable attacking.

Without one person in charge, collaborators turn their focus away from elements that make them uncomfortable. But those elements are often the ones you most need to address.

Having one person in charge can ensure your collaboration doesn’t drift and stays focused on the true problem at hand.

You need somebody to kill (and save) ideas.

When a bunch of smart people get together, you get a bunch of smart ideas.

But you don’t need a bunch of smart ideas — you only need one.

Somebody has to choose which ideas to pursue and which to scrap, has to kill a great idea to better serve another, and has to save an underappreciated idea.

The ideas you pursue shouldn’t be based on which collaborators are best or worst at presenting them.

Having one person in charge — assuming it’s the right person —levels the playing field and helps ensure group dynamics don’t lead you don’t the wrong path.

You need somebody to move ideation to action.

Collaboration is great for ideation, but without a clear leader to move those ideas forward, it will ultimately fail.

It takes one person to make the tough calls required to shift ideas into action and without that person your collaboration will bog down in an endless circle of idea generation.

As good as that may feel in the short term, it won’t end well.

So the next time you get together a group of people to collaborate on a project, here’s the first question you might want to tackle:

Who’s in charge?

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I run the For The Interested newsletter and help clients use social media and newsletters to grow and activate audiences.

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Written by

Josh Spector

I run the For The Interested newsletter and help clients use social media and newsletters to grow and activate audiences.

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