Things That Make You Go Boom
Today was another opportunity to spend more time with the local suburban SWAT teams. As I mentioned before, these guys have been helping me with some needed business research, and I'm very appreciative of the fact that they let me tag along when they are practicing various scenarios to improve their skills.
One of the purposes of today's practice was learning how to retreat effectively. Recently, one of the SWAT reality TV shows had shown a team that penetrated a house only to find a bomb. Instead of acting like a team, it became every-man-for-himself, and they ran helter skelter out of the building. The commander and team leaders today did not want their teams to react similarly when faced with those circumstances, so they created the "bomber" scenario. I was fortunate enough to be in the room where the bomber and his hostage were located (but when you wear the bright orange vest, that puts you "out of play" and you get to enjoy just observing). Of the three teams, two retreated fairly effectively when the knowledge of the bomb was introduced. One team, in their effort to dominate, continued to proceed into the room... and were promptly "blown up." (No SWAT team members were hurt in the writing of this blog... but the noise was really loud.)
One of Stephen Covey's seven habits is to seek the Win-Win, but too few people actually read the entire chapter to find out the "or else" of this habit. There are times a win-win isn't possible, and you have to be willing to walk away. In other words, you must embrace the possibility that a "no deal" scenario may occur. Brian McNary of the Sun Valley Idaho blog posted his commentary on Covey's habit a few months ago. While it was in the context of local government and community, he summarized his point nicely:
I think many of us grow up with the win lose mentality. It is clearly evident in sports where it should be. It is clearly evident in the court room. But when we apply that mentality to other pursuits, particularly our work, it creates nothing but hardship and distrust and mires us in a tar pit where future leaders will say, “what the hell happened to them?”
We all have to know when to retreat. If the win-win isn't going to happen, we need to quit throwing good money and energy after bad in order to force it to happen. The SWAT teams today learned a valuable lesson about retreating when it was evident that they were in a no-win situation. Listening to their debrief provided further evidence that there's a reason why these guys are so good at what they do. I've had a couple of projects recently that I was up for, and I was willing to walk away from? Why? I knew that the win-win wasn't possible. The hiring managers both had issues and hidden agendas which would have made my job as a consultant very challenging. At the same time, a former client presented me with a wonderful and challenging project, and I know that I'll enjoy working with them again. If I had not been willing to retreat to the "no deal" of the two earlier projects, I would not have been able to open myself up to the win-win of this one.
What projects, relationships, habits, and activities should you be retreating from rather than engaging? Are you in danger of being "blown up" by forcing your way into the door?