How To Collaborate - Even When You're Not The Boss

How To Collaborate - Even When You're Not The Boss


It’s when working together adds up to sum that’s greater than the parts.

Team work can be a great way to get things done in life, but how do you collaborate at work when you don’t feel empowered to initiate it, or when you aren’t leading a chain of command?

Such was the question raised by one of the participants in this week’s Women of the Vine and Spirits webinar on the topic of wellness in our industry. What struck me was the courage it takes to ask for, or initiate, collaboration. We figured that if one person was wondering, there must be more who are interested to learn more.

Here goes.

Asking for collaboration can be difficult, particularly if you are new to the industry and are just starting to build a community of people you trust and enjoy working with. But remember: just because you are not a manager or VP doesn’t mean you are powerless to build a collaborative community that will support you and your growth and development in the industry.

Keeping that fundamental thing in mind, here are three ways you can start the conversation:

1.     Find a confidant you trust, and gather the courage to share your thoughts.

2.     Start with small “asks,” like “Can we go for coffee together today? I’d appreciate your opinion on my idea.”

3.     Be prepared to offer what YOU can contribute to move the idea forward.

Seeking collaboration is not the same thing as asking for permission.

Seeking to collaborate is more about asking, “Why not?”

We recognize that in larger organizations, speaking up can be very intimidating when you are unsure how you will be judged. Courage is critical, but you may be surprised by others who wished they had also raised the same issue.

Be mindful that people in more senior roles may not be seeing what you are seeing as challenges. This, too, is a reason to speak up and seek collaboration. We are all busy in our own worlds, so don’t assume a lack of awareness will equal a lack of interest. Responsibility also falls on industry leadership to listen and push forward new ways of thinking.

Chip Conley is a hospitality entrepreneur and author of “Wisdom at Work” The Making of a Modern Elder” and Founder of the Modern Elder Academy. Conley is a huge proponent of collaboration and he speaks pointedly about bridging the gap between generations in the workplace.

He recently coined the term mentern, which means taking an intern’s perspective or beginner’s mind while in a senior role. It’s about listening and learning from the workings of new and emerging talent and leadership, while sharing knowledge, wisdom and experience that has been garnered over decades of literally “doing it.”

While not a classic mentor / mentee dynamic, the role of a mentern is important and can be easily applied in workplaces where the age gap can drive the need for a meeting of minds and middle ground.

Our industry can only strengthen through community, collaboration and harnessing knowledge, then applying it with timely and relevant tools for the changing industry environment.  

What will you do to collaborate, to find the courage and harness your mentern skills in 2019?

We would love to hear your thoughts.



Meet The Tribe:

Our community is only as strong as the company we keep, and here we meet some of the folks who make our profession so dynamic. 

Photo credit: carlos gonzaělez armesto

Photo credit: carlos gonzaělez armesto

Linda Milagros Violago

Grazing a Trail Consulting, Consultant Sommelier + Server at Restaurant Lawrence (Montreal, Canada)

 Years In Industry:

30+ years, always front of house, mostly independent restaurants, with some consulting with hotels and resorts, through 13 countries, including Charlie Trotter's in the US, Mugaritz in Spain, Geranium in Denmark, and In de Wulf in Belgium.  I also completed four harvests and a stint at a Japanese sake brewery.


My Biggest Challenge To Wellness: 

Getting enough sleep.  My body is used to long restaurant hours, so I don't typically get to bed until late, no matter when I get home. I am a big fan of "Linda Days" which includes self care including yoga, maybe a pedicure, massage, or  visit with an acupuncturist. Because I consult as well as work service, I try to really keep the (out of service) work hours condensed to a certain amount per day, which means I need to be organized.  If I am not organized, it means that I am working seven days a week and that isn't fun for me anymore.


How I Keep It Together To Stay Well:  

I define boundaries - if I take work home with me I am sure to do it in my home office, or in a place that I don't leisurely things - this helps avoid distractions, and keeps the work and lounge space separate.

I have moved quite a lot in the last couple of years and have been very lucky to have friends and co-workers around to support me I am very introverted and am super happy to be on my own.  I have trouble asking for help, but I've been able to do that, and it's made a world of difference. 

I love walking, and public transport.  If I can't have one, I'll take the other.  In Montreal, most of my life's "stuff" is within a 15-minute walk. Public transport affords me the time to read, and walking means great people-watching and fresh air.


What We’re Reading:

There's no shortage of wine stories and media inundating our IN Boxes. Here's what has piqued our interest this week.

Seven Ways Wine Will Change in 2019 – Elin McCoy for

“Expect the link between technology and wine to expand, with new fine wine trading apps, AI, robots in vineyards, and more. Ditto more good bubbly, from just about every wine region in the world.”

 New Year’s Resolutions from Seven Industry Leaders – Rebecca Hopkins for

Drinks professionals share their plans for community building, creating opportunities for diversity, and more in 2019.


Let's Meet Up!

As work life has it, we are traveling over the next few months and would love to see you.  Check out details on the Let's Meet Up! page.

·       Guest Lecturer at INSEEC in Bordeaux, Jan. 21 – 26 (Cathy)  

·       Judge at TEXSOM International Wine Awards in Dallas, Feb 18 to 20 (Cathy)

·       Presenter at the British Columbia Wine Insight Conference , March 12 (Cathy)

·       Presenter at the International Institute for Analytics conference in Portland , March 13 (Cathy)

·       Attendee at ProWein in Düsseldorf, March 17 to 19 (Cathy)

·       Attendees at Vinitaly in Verona, April 7 – 10 (Rebecca and Cathy)

·       Attendee at MUST: Fermenting Ideas in Cascais, Portugal, June 26 to 28 (Cathy) 

Drop a line to or if you are interested in getting together for practice, a chat or a great glass together. 

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