This afternoon I told my husband I was making a tuna fish sandwich for lunch and asked if he’d like one. He accepted the offer and asked if I’d like him to make tuna melts which, of course, I accepted! So, off to the kitchen we went.

I diced up some onion and celery and mixed it with the tuna. He jokingly chided that I not be chintzy with the mayonnaise — this is because he typically overdoes the mayo, too much even for his liking.

He asked me what type of cheese I wanted and worked his magic with just the right amount of butter to make delicious tuna melts.

Why do I share this story? Because it’s a great analogy for collaboration. Let’s unpack it.

First, because I wanted lunch, I came up with the idea for tuna sandwiches. Tony will readily admit to you that, without my prompting, he probably wouldn’t have even had lunch. So, you could translate this to say that I identified a need and offered a potential solution.

Next, Tony improved upon my initial idea by proposing tuna melts. Effectively, he assessed the original proposal and suggested a modification.

Once we’d negotiated the outcome — tuna melt it is — we then set about executing our individual roles and responsibilities. I prepped; he cooked. We each recognized each other’s strengths — my minimization of mayonnaise, his maximization of butter. We also trusted each other to complete our respective responsibilities. In other words, he didn’t stand over me and critique my chopping of the vegetables and I didn’t monitor how long he’d cooked each side of the sandwich.

Even when I’d opened the fridge to get our drinks and saw the pickles (goodness knows we both love pickles on tuna), we chose not to let that omission mar the outcome. We found a way to adapt by just serving them on the side.

What are some of the attributes that made this collaboration so seamless?

Time — Tony and I have been together for quite some time and, through that, know each other’s preferences.

Trust — We have come to understand what to expect from each other, making it easy to relinquish control.

Talent — We are aware of how our strengths complement one another.

Teachable — We are open to, and see the value in, learning from each other’s perspective and from the experience itself.