Not Only Do Opposites Attract …They Must Attract

I’ve always loved the game of basketball.  I played the game at a pretty high level as a kid, coached kids when I got older, and even played in a handful of adult leagues. Strangely enough, it was the last league I played in that made me a more complete player and coach. I also became more empathetic to one other person in the game; the referee.

It turned out the league I was playing in made it a requirement for every player on every roster to referee one game.  When it was my turn, I stepped on the court with a whistle, a swagger, and a rather cocky attitude.  After all, although I had never refereed a game, how hard could it be?  Certainly not as hard as playing the game!  Yep, I was pretty full of myself until about 30 seconds into the game when I was practically overwhelmed with the speed of the action, and the amount of contact… everywhere.  I found myself doing a lot of talking to the players on the court with very little whistle blowing.  “Ease up!”  “Let him go!”  “That’s all – he’s got the ball!”  I was carrying on quite a conversation until I started hearing from the coaches yelling, “You missed that call!  Are you going to blow the whistle or invite that guy over for lunch!”

I got worked over pretty well in the first half of that game by players and coaches alike, but I settled in during the second half.  I stopped talking, realized that I couldn’t make all the calls, tried to be consistent, and tried my hardest to make the obvious calls.   Being forced to walk in the shoes of a referee, I had to approach the game from a completely different angle. It proved to be a profound experience that made me a better player and coach.  I didn’t tell you this story to improve your basketball skills, however.  Take a moment and think about this: How many people approach what you do from a different angle?  Each one has the potential to make you better at what you do.  Here are three classic examples I’m intimately familiar with:

Sales and Marketing

How many of us were raised on one side, and then taught to practically sneer at the other?  I was taught as a salesperson that those in marketing didn’t have a clue as to what we were up to in sales!  I met many in marketing who were taught the complete opposite. But when you think about it, wouldn’t each side find tremendous value understanding what the other was up to?  I’ve taught programs where I encouraged both the sales force and the marketing team to attend.  Those in sales learned valuable information in prospecting, and those in marketing learned the psychology behind why people needed their product.  It was a win for both sides.

Sales and Service

Once again, we find a similar scenario: I was taught, as a salesperson, that the people in service didn’t have a clue as to what we were up to in sales!  I met many in service people who were taught the complete opposite. But when you think about it, wouldn’t each side find tremendous value understanding what the other was up to?  It was no coincidence that the most successful Xerox sales reps I ever met were tight with those in service in their territories.  Customers were much more likely to be open with those servicing their equipment, and this allowed those in sales valuable information and the ability to work proactively with their clients.  Those in service developed more empathy for their counterparts and learned valuable communication skills as well.  Once again, a win for both sides.

Training and Curriculum Development

I was taught and observed as a trainer that those in curriculum development didn’t have much respect for those in training or understand what a trainer really did.  Those in training didn’t have a healthy attitude for those in curriculum development nor did they understand the value of having someone who never trained write training programs. It was no coincidence that the most successful corporate training outcomes I’ve ever observed were a direct result of pressing relationships between the two departments.  Trainers provided help as delivery specialists, and curriculum developers provided help as subject matter experts.  Yep; a win for both sides!

It might be fun surrounding yourself with likeminded people, but realistically, how much do you honestly think you can learn from these situations?  Much like any real relationship, it seems that not only do opposites attract… they must attract.  Each has the potential to provide a different approach to the other. By doing so, we can learn a lot about how we might be perceived, and how we might want to adjust our perception of what others do!  Ultimately, it makes both sides better.

Related: Don’t Give Up On The Obvious