The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.
The other night an old colleague was telling me about a new leader who asked his team why everyone was "playing so nice". The day after that, I found myself discussing a situation where we couldn't agree and finally decided to "agree to disagree"; amid all the discussion though, we at least agreed how important it was that we felt comfortable enough to challenge each other's thinking - We knew that in the end a better understanding of the situation and a better solution would be born from it; all of which were very good things.
Was this universal coincidence? My humble experience "thinks not".
I've found over my short tenure on this fine planet that when the universe wants to get involved, it usually has an important point to make and really, really wants you to listen; my experience has also shown it sometimes can be really, really hard to figure out what it's trying to say. Since I've taken us this far, I guess I'll take a shot as to where this was coming from... universally speaking.
Was the universe trying to re-enforce the truism that when you bring constructive perspectives and thinking together in an environment of respect and trust, with a common goal in mind, you will always get a better result solving even the most "M.C. Escher"* like situations? Although this is crucially important, I don't think this was it.
I think what the universe had in mind lies with the question posed in that story (over a beer) about someone I most likely will never meet - "Why are you playing so nice?". The universe wanted to give me a simple heads up for my day to come, as well as remind me of what can compromise idea generation, problem solving, and planning... as well as make those "Escheresque situations" much less fun.
Since the universe brought it up we should start with "playing nice", for no other reason than it is the "frickin'" universe and deserves our respect.
"Are you playing too nice?" - This is not to suggest unleashing a no hold bars blood sport where the victor takes all but rather to say if you want better answers and solutions you need to stop agreeing, stop avoiding the elephant in the room, or stay silent because what you have to say is unpopular. In turn, "not playing nice" doesn't mean you don't have to be respectful, listen, and appreciate the participation around the table - The meaning is it's important to challenge what is being said with other thoughts, perspectives and views.
And along the same vein we have -
Are all agendas and goals around the table aligned? - Everyone has egos and personal agendas but it is crucial that everyone "checks it" at the door and aligns to the single goal of dealing with the situation at hand. You can pick your ego and agenda back up on the way out and continue on your merry way. This is all figurative of course, but no less important because if you don't align then nothing will every get done except for an endless number of unproductive meetings.
If you are not participating what value are you bringing? - This is more or less self explanatory, but it should be mentioned that participating does not mean listening to yourself speak by echoing thoughts that are already out on the table or aligning what you say for reasons other than dealing with the situation at hand. (See above)
How come everyone around the table isn't taking the opportunity to be a leader? - Yes there is ultimately someone around the table who gets to throw the "czar card" for a final decision, but everyone around the table has the same opportunity to shape the conversation, the thinking, the direction of the final decision, and rally everyone to a vision - And isn't that what leadership is all about?
And there you have it, my most recent universal coincidence. Can I say for sure this was the point it was trying to make; probably not, but what I can say is when the universe wants to tell me something I listen really, really hard. After all, it is the "frinkin' universe".
* The best way to explain the genius of M.C. Escher is by sending you to his website where I hope this all makes sense.