War Stories: "I Don't Ever Want To Work With This Person Again!"
I once worked on a project with someone who I found to be very difficult to partner with. There were a number of reasons for it - part working style, part communication, part differing perspectives on the task at hand.
It was a difficult enough experience that, for the first time in my career, I went to my practice leader (effectively my boss at the consulting firm) and told him that I never wanted to work with that individual again. He asked me several questions, heard me out and said he'd take care of it, which I assumed to mean I'd got my wish.
A week later, I was assigned on a new assignment - with the same individual!
I was flabbergasted. Wasn't I clear about the issues? Didn't I explain the problems we had partnering? Why was this happening?
The response I got back was short and simple: The two of you are important to the practice, and need to learn to work together.
So, begrudgingly, we got on with it. We flew to where we had to fly. We organized and planned ourselves through the work to be done. We delivered it.
And something strange happened.
Faced with the prospect of (gasp) having to work with each other, we opened up and communicated. We tried to understand the other person's point of view. We gave each other the benefit of the doubt. And we delivered the work.
To the point where we then went on to develop a strong working relationship. One that continued until the day I left the firm.
Weird, huh? Well, maybe not really.
Many times, we have to operate in situations not of our own making. As such, we cannot control all of the variables, including (especially) who we work with.
So, we have to figure it out. We have to find a way to make it work.
This means: listening, understanding, sympathizing, empathizing.
Communicating. Looking past the emotions of the moment, the subjective factors that cloud our perceptions.
Giving each other the benefit of the doubt. Accepting that we can learn something from the other person, while also sharing our own knowledge with them.
That was an important lesson for me. It taught me that sometimes the right solutions aren't what you think you want. That to get to the right solution, sometimes you have to work your way through the difficulties that you don't want to deal with. And that, when you put your mind to it - or when you have to put your mind to it - you will find a way to get there.
Or in the words of The Stones, you can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.