Dancing with Strangers

Engaging with unknown partners poses risks. Without the context of a track record, it’s hard to predict the direction collaboration might take. A cocktail of trust, courage, and adventure must be consumed before dancing with a stranger.

Recently, five leaders with disparate talents and divergent backgrounds agreed to embark on three-day marathon retreat with no prior history of working together as a team. The project goal was defined yet the achievement path was open for debate. With each participant established as a leader in their respective area of expertise, the prospect for conflict was high. Who follows if everyone leads?

The outcome was magical. Deference was the common fuel for creativity. When one person soared to the clouds with an unusual idea, another remained rooted in practicality so the soaring talent could keep an eye on the ground. When anyone expressed a hint of frustration about being accurately understood, teammates increased the sensitivity settings on their listening mechanisms. When a well-intended contributor slipped down into the rabbit hole getting lost in the murkiness of micro-detail, a collaborator offered a hand so his or her partner could resurface to a place where the bigger picture was visible.

Beyond the accomplishment of the project goals, friendships were forged. Sometimes, it takes years of trial and error to establish a reliable foundation of trust. Other times, trust is granted for free and the risk it will be broken is assumed collectively. When you dance with strangers, shared risk sometimes becomes shared reward.