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Creating Successful Leaders

time to adapt

I once collaborated on a project with a few people from my department. We all had different areas of expertise, so we relied on each other equally in order to get it off the ground.

The problem was, our visions of not only how we were going to execute the project, but what the project even looked like, were all over the board. It took weeks of frustrating debate just to come to an agreement on the project itself.

Then, there was the tug-of-war between us at every step of the process. One person wanted to draft specific, detailed assignments for each of us to follow verbatim. Since a few of us worked better in a more fluid, open style, that became a point of contention. Another member of the team insisted we meet in person multiple times a week, while there was one individual who thrived working on her own time.

Of course, we eventually got the job done. Once we had time to settle down and look back on the project, we admitted we could have all been more flexible.

It’s easy to get tunnel vision in situations like these. So easy, in fact, that I’ve witnessed the calmest, most professional leaders become almost hysterical when they’re in the middle of a collaborative project. Why is this?

I think it’s mainly due to pride. When we have a task before us, we all visualize how the end result will look, which is very necessary. But we unintentionally force our personal vision onto everyone else, even when we’re unaware that we’re doing it.

Think of a time when you resisted a suggestion from someone in a collaborative situation. I’m willing to bet that your resistance to their suggestion wasn’t necessarily because it was a bad idea. I’ll go so far as to say you objected because deep down, you were convinced that your vision was inherently better than theirs.

This is where the tunnel vision happens. Assuming that you have the better vision, you are unwilling/unable to truly give their idea a fair chance. Often, you’ll realize after the fact that they actually had a great idea, and you may scratch your head and wonder, “Why didn’t I see that at the time?”

The remedy? Remind yourself every step of the way that your vision isn’t inherently perfect. Remind yourself that you are one person, working in a team. Listen to your collaborators. Accept that the product won’t ever be exactly as you envision it. Allow yourself to change your mind and see alternatives.

The good news: having this skill enhances your end product. Flexibility leads to innovation and dynamic results well past what you expected. This is because the ability to be flexible unleashes the awesome power of collaborative work between many talented minds.

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