When is the most effective time to use singular voice or collective voice? I or we? Me or us? My or ours? That decision begins with clarity about who I am speaking for, myself or the group and my intention to disrupt a consensus or create one.
When I was in my second year of engineering school I went ice climbing with a fellow student I'd never gone out with before. We drove three hours to the Columbia ice fields and then humped another 30 minutes to the base of the frozen waterfall. As we unloaded all the gear out on the snow, I said, "I thought you brought the rope."
Teams break down without inclusion or ownership.
Assumptions famously lead to a lot of unnecessary issues and conflicts between people. A relationship system is any collective of two or more people with some common interest. When the system is well-aligned, the people in the system are happy and working towards a mission they all share. When the system is unaligned the participants have not yet had enough conversation to discover the natural compatibilities of their individual agendas. When the system is misaligned, the participants have obviously competing agendas that they have not yet resolved into a position of common ground.
Relationships are aligned, unaligned or misaligned.
I am a member of several teams in various states of alignment. When I am clearly in a leadership mode and selling my ideas to the other team members I consciously use first-person voice in the singular: I, me or my–I am presenting what I think, how I feel and what I see and hear in terms of opportunities and threats and taking ownership over them as my point of view. I use this voice specifically when I clearly understand I do not have alignment with my team mates. I am respecting the need to debate strategic ideas with my partners in order to construct the best strategy; I do not presume a consensus that does not yet exist.
When my partners and I arrive at a consensus I (and we) switch into collective voice: we, us and ours–I am presenting the position of the team to people we want to include.
Leaders either work towards consensus or strategically disrupt them.
Sometimes a seemingly well-aligned system needs to undergo a transformation to a higher level of alignment. This requires a tumultuous period of realignment. Am I speaking for myself and telling what is true for me, thinking that I have a consensus when I don't or forgetting that I am part of team altogether? It's not all about me unless it is. A collective of brilliant individuals requires that each person understand their own truth before attempting to fashion a larger synergy. Moving effortlessly between the two is an important skill to create a larger harmony. If I'm not climbing alone, someone needs to bring the rope.