Bob Lieberman's Blog

Commentary and Tools For Empowering Change

The Challenge Of Challenge

One of the key stages in the creative process is Challenge. This is where ideas are tested so that one can emerge as worthy of commitment. Of necessity, conflict arises. And, people being who we are, we often take personally any criticism of our ideas no matter how gingerly stated. Then, in addition to the criticism, there may be rejection, since only one idea will be selected. In short, Challenge is an emotional minefield.

Like most of us, I enjoy being judged or proven right. When I was much younger, I frequently lorded being right over those who were judged or proven wrong. Something about the competition of ideas got my adrenalin going, and winning it was exhilarating vindication. I'm sure the mathematicians and scientists among you will appreciate my experience.

But I learned that friendships would be short-lived if I continued to live in that world. I lost some friends and colleagues and, more importantly, missed out on deeper relationships with the ones I didn't lose. I've since come to appreciate two things about Challenge.
  1. There are times when the relationship is more important than being right. Good relationships have a way of working out right and wrong that doesn't always happen "right now". It can require time for the parties to adjust to the new challenging information. A good relationship can afford the time.

  2. When being right is important and you are judged or proven right, you still have a responsibility to support the integrity of the person who is wrong (and who, by the way, now finds him/herself in a vulnerable position). Being right can be very rewarding, but it isn't about total victory and utter defeat. Gentleness in victory has its own rewards.
These lessons apply most obviously to black-and-white Challenge situations. But they also have broad application in those more common situations where each party is a little bit right and a little bit wrong.

As you carry out your challenging responsibilities at your place of business over the next few days, it might be interesting to try these ideas on for size.