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Contributing Intentionally

Contributing Intentionally is a Collaborating Skill. “Think it, believe in it, contribute it.”


Is my contribution to the group or family adding value?

Contributing Intentionally involves encouraging others to contribute so everyone feels valued.  Leaders model how to contribute and encourage others. Subtle roles can be critical: asking the tough questions, being the connector, inspiring each other, asking about undercurrents that might derail the group, and bringing in lightheartedness. Contributing Intentionally might require courage and vulnerability, to share what we think and feel in the best interest of the group

Why Contributing Intentionally — The Science

  • People adapt to whether they are a leader or follower, depending on the role that is needed for both cooperation and coordination.
  • Children develop key prosocial skills when they are encouraged to take the initiative and make mature contributions to shared, mutual family responsibilities. 
  • Groups are greatly affected by those who act in key informal roles. These roles include opinion leaders, central connectors, bottlenecks, experts, consultants, and helpful people. In particular, performance is improved by those who act first and synthesize problem solving, expertise, and accessibility. 
  • Silence is of the major barriers to system change. the fear of the lower level to speak truth to power, and senior leaders’ reluctance to seek the truth. Honest conversations are transformative, improving effectiveness and performance while simultaneously transforming trust and commitment.
  • When people share information with each other, there is less conflict in the group and it performs better.
  • Leadership can be viewed through a variety of perspectives: those who are the formal leaders, those who perform leadership functions in a team, or those who ensure that the team achieves its goals.


  1. Nakayama S, Marín MR, Camacho M, Porfiri M. Plasticity in leader–follower roles in human teams. Scientific Reports Nature Publisher Group. 2017;(11);7:1-9.
  2. Coppens AD, Alcalá L, Rogoff B, Mejía-Arauz R. Children’s contributions in family work: Two cultural paradigms. Familial and friendship relations and spatial socialities. 2016;5.
  3.   de Toni AF, Nonino F. The key roles in the informal organization: a network analysis perspective. The Learning Organization 2010;17(1):86-103.
  4.   Beer M. Why honest conversations are transformative. Research in Organizational Change and Development 2020. Emerald Publishing Limited.
  5.   Moye NA, Langfred CW. Information Sharing and Group Conflict: Going Beyond Decision Making to Understand the Effects of Information Sharing on Group Performance. International Journal of Conflict Management. 2004;15(4).
  6. Morgeson FP, DeRue DS, Karam EP. Leadership in teams: A functional approach to understanding leadership structures and processes. Journal of management. 2010;36(1):5-39.

How to Practice-Model-Coach
Contributing Intentionally


  • Take time to write down all the ways you contribute to your household, class, or another group. What is your named role? Now write down all the ways you contribute that make you feel the most fulfilled. 
  • Think about the ways others contribute. Could they be contributing in different ways? Maybe activities have changed or people have gotten older. Ensuring that everyone is contributing their best selves in age-appropriate ways is how we learn responsibility. When we all feel our contributions are needed, it increases a feeling of belonging. 
  • Each person affects the dynamic of the whole group.   What happens when one person is absent from the family or group, or if that person changes their role?  How does that impact the dynamic in the group?  Who picks up the role? What happens if the role is left empty?


  • Name contributions and roles. Name for the other members of your household, class or group  how you contribute and how they contribute to the happiness and needs of your group.  Have everyone take turns talking about what they see as everyone’s contributions and “roles.” Has that changed over time? What changes might be good to ensure that everyone is contributing in a way that helps the family or group? 
  • Practice leadership. Take turns planning events. When you trade the role of leadership with others, everyone learns how it feels to play a different role. 
  • Shout-outs to honor contribution. Give shout-outs to others when you see them providing good leadership, facilitation or supporting roles. 
  • Pause to Notice. When the group gets stuck in an argument or negative talk track, intentionally pause and take a minute to regroup. Then inquire about what is working well and what is needed next.


  • Help others to name how they contribute to the family, to their classroom, to their friend groups. Is there anything they feel they are missing? How could they contribute in a more meaningful way?

Resources for Contributing Intentionally




Tweens & Teens

  • Front Desk by Kelly Yang  (Age 8 to 12)
  • From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks (Age 8 to 12)