This is the sixth “writing out loud” excerpt from the working draft of Adam Kahane’s new book, “Collaborating with the Enemy: An Open Way to Work with People You Don’t Agree With or Like or Trust,” to be published by Berrett-Koehler in 2017. Adam is keen to engage with interested readers around this material as he develops it. If you would like to read the full working drafts and participate in a conversation about them, please sign up here. If you have already subscribed, check your inbox with the email containing the direct link to the full version.
If you would like to read the full working drafts and participate in a conversation about them, please sign up here. If you have already subscribed, check your inbox with the email containing the direct link to the full version.
Our collaborative immigration project was difficult. The issue was complex, contentious, and dangerous, with no quick or easy answers. The team had radically different perspectives and interests. We were all making big investments in the work and were all taking risks—many of us to our reputations, some to our livelihoods, a few to our safety. So in doing this work we faced real challenges.
But on top of these real challenges, I also manufactured imaginary ones. I spent much of my energy not on what the team were actually doing, but on my emotional reactions—anxieties, fantasies, projections—to what they were doing and what I wished they were doing. I was acting like Don Quixote, tilting heroically at windmills that I thought were my enemies. I suffered fearful days and sleepless nights. In part what was going on in me reflected what was going on in the project and in the larger system, and this gave me some important insights. Overall, however, I made a difficult undertaking even more difficult.
Tough collaboration is difficult and dangerous and so requires paying attention and not getting distracted. The most common way we get distracted from what we need to do is by focusing on what we think other people need to do.