Sometimes we stick our stake in the ground and hold on for dear life. Our dentist is a master collaborator, and all of his co-workers are exceptional. On our last visit, they had just moved into a brand new workspace. It was the first day in their new home, and life was a bit crazy. There were designers, workman and engineers roaming around the space. Lots of machinery wasn’t yet operational and finding necessary tools was a bit like a game of hide and seek. All this change was exciting but challenging. And, it was game on. Stress levels were on the rise. As the dentist and the dental assistant began to work their magic in my mouth, a minor conflict erupted. The crux of the dispute was the placement of the wheeled table holding all the instruments and apparatus. This little table was being pushed and pulled, turned and adjusted, and turned again. They both needed it just so, so they could perform at peak levels. The problem was, they each had a different just so. The dentist kept adjusting the table and asking the assistant where she wanted it – attempting to collaborate. The assistant kept moving it back, with a bit more force each time, saying she’d had it where she wanted it – sticking her stake in the ground a little deeper with each move. As an expert, she knew what she needed; also an expert, he was struggling with this new set up, the pressure was on, and he was working hard to maintain control in this challenging environment.
So, how do you collaborate when one person sticks their stake in the ground and doesn’t want to budge? You do just what the master collaborators did. You breath. You stop and take a moment. You remind yourselves and each other that you are a team, and that you are committed to both of you getting what you want and need. You appreciate that the other person likes it just the way it is, and you remind them that you want them to keep what they have as you get your own needs met. You communicate. You clarify. You make small adjustments and try out new arrangements until it works, until it’s “just so” for you both.