Sheila had 15 days to meet a deadline. The project was on target until an unexpected problem arose. When she first heard the news, all she could focus on was the obstacle and not meeting the deadline. Things changed once she tried an approach that was counterintuitive to her driven tendency.

She got curious.

Sheila made a conscious choice to look at the problem with a curious mindset, enlist the help from her team, and focus on a solution. She had the self-awareness to know in order to reach the deadline and maintain quality, she needed all hands on deck. Unlike her usual independent and take charge attitude, she recognized that placing blame or relying on her own self-sufficiency would only further delay problem-solving. 

The following are 10 simple yet profound counterintuitive strategies Sheila chose to address the looming deadline and work through the unexpected setback.

1. Invited her team to a brainstorming meeting. All phones were turned off and placed on a table at the door.

2. Opened the meeting with the question “where are we winning?” which set the tone for what is working and the strengths of the team.

3. Asked questions down to basic levels of understanding. How is that done? Why do we do things this way? What other ways could we achieve the same result faster and maintain quality?

4. Ask questions as if they didn’t know the answer.

5. Ask “what if’s” before dismissing radical or risky ideas.

6. Encouraged coworkers to look at one another when talking, really see one’s another’s face, eyes.

7. Assigned one person to take notes so others could listen fully, attentively, all in.

8. Invited people to sit in a different seat than they would normally sit.

9. Took breaks for people to walk and ponder possibilities without talking with others.

10. Challenged one another to stretch beyond comfort levels.

While there were long days and much effort put into the project, the deadline was met. Sheila saw heightened collaboration among her team and work relationships deepen as everyone gave their all for a common goal.

  • What would happen in your work culture if you were more curious than directive?
  • What would happen if your focused on problem-solving than who’s to blame?
  • What would happen if your leadership was known for collaborating with your team instead of protecting your ego? 

Whether you are dealing with a deadline, every day responsibilities, or a challenging employee
make the Conscious Choice to be curious