Covenant of Collaboration: Being Human
Once upon a time when I was upstarting a nonprofit business accelerator in the Dominican Republic, I got in touch with my friend Willie for some guidance and help.
You’d never suspect Willie is the founder and chancellor of an international charity that has changed and saved tens of thousands of lives. Probably because he rocks a long ponytail, wears loose, comfortable clothes, his thin gray goatee frames the largest smile of anyone I’ve ever met, and his house is full of art and trinkets from around the world, each with its own uniquely outlandish story. (If you get a chance, ask him about the über-ornate teak elephant statuettes once used as opium weights in the Burmese empire.)
Over the last several decades he has grown his organization to work with partners from every corner of the globe and every creed under the sun, so I figured he was a good guy to know.
We were in need of a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) template to use with our partners and I had heard his organization’s MOU was…uncommon.
With all their strategic partnerships and constituents and moving pieces you would expect an organization like his would have a partnership agreement crafted by a cadre of lawyers and suits. Something legal. Something bulletproof and ironclad.
He sent me their most recent "covenant of collaboration" they’d signed with a top medical school in Indonesia. It read:
"We, being of like minds, agree to work together in Indonesia and around the
world as opportunities arise."
That’s 35 characters shy of a full tweet.
You can’t help but smile at the simplicity.
The rector of the university with whom they were forging a partnership was equally delighted.
"His big smile was followed by a giggle and he then picked up the 15 page MoU he was thinking of putting on the table,” Willie told me.
The idea here is, as Willie puts it: “yes” is yes and “no” is no. The simplicity is rather refreshing.
A handshake-type deal, Seth Godin says, is about the future and what's to come (vs. focusing on the past). “Either side can claim loopholes or wriggle out of a commitment, but the consequence is clear—if you disappoint us, we won't be back for more. The participant in a handshake deal is investing in the future, doing more now in exchange for the benefits that trust and delight and consistency bring going forward."
It turns out being human is pretty simple. It's saying what we mean and meaning what we say. It's being fair and just and working transparently with vulnerability, and not being a jerk.
No one would’ve thought any less of them or their organizations if they had taken the easy-yet-more-complex route and used the 15 page novella to define their relationship. Yet, what would they have been subtly sacrificing by doing so? I mean, when was the last time you've heard a grown man giggle in a business setting?
It was more delightful (and plain better) to just be human.
Not convinced? Impresario Seth Godin - much wiser and balder than I (the two are unrelated) talks about the same stuff here and here.
In our experience people are delighted when we’re simply human.