One of the roles that I’ve found to be particularly helpful in coaching collaborative initiatives and groups over the long-term is to help people understand that as a collective, they are unique. That is, like every living being, each group has its own distinct qualities and personality and for groups who have not worked together before, part of the early work is getting a better sense of who we are together and how we want to be together. We cannot simply assume that what worked with one collaborative will work with another. We have to honor history and other contextual factors as well as work to find was is real and essential about this living system.
While I like emphasizing uniqueness, I also like to point out that uniqueness does not make us special. I don’t mean any disrespect with this statement, but rather try to release people from the unrealistic expectation that they will steer clear of conflict, uncertainty, and profound moments of doubt. In that regard, we are all alike. Normalizing some of the bumps along the way is not meant to avoid difficult conversations, but to keep people from going into the unhelpful territory of “What’s wrong with us!?” which can also take a turn into blame and finger pointing.