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Pew, pew, pew. The sound of holes being shot through ideas, processes, procedures, and plans is common in my workday. It’s become an insider joke to make the sound when vetting ideas. At first, the sound drove me nuts, but these days, it’s music to my ears.

A few years ago, I transitioned roles in my organization and joined a new group of coworkers. You know what it’s like to jump into the fray with a group you aren’t familiar with. It’s a struggle. You’re off-kilter, figuratively arms akimbo, and disoriented. A new team must get used to your oddities, and you have to embrace theirs as well. I was no different in my new position.

One of my new teammates is somewhat the opposite of me. While I am an introvert, she is a comedian who keeps me in stitches when the day gets rough. I’m a morning person, she’s more of a night owl. And the differences don’t stop there, but I digress.

When we first started working together, I presented an idea to her for improving our processes and procedures in the department, knowing she’d love it. But her reaction was quite the opposite of what I’d expected. Instead of embracing my plan, she shot holes through it. It would have looked like Swiss cheese when she finished if an idea could be visible.

How do you think I reacted to that? Think about it. I’m an introvert. I’m well educated and have a bunch of pieces of paper that I hang on my wall to show that I’m relatively smart. You get it now, right? I was not a happy camper. My idea had been a good one, and she shot it down within minutes and laid the foibles in the plan out for all to see.

That incident was about three years ago. Do you know how she and I interact now? I take every big idea to her before I put it into play so she can do her best to shoot holes in it. I reason that if I can get the idea past her, it just might be a good plan to put into action. I’ve learned she is a tremendous resource. She keeps me from tripping up unnecessarily.

See how that got turned around there? Instead of living my life being offended, I learned to use her strength to build the team up and keep us out of trouble. I love the proverb: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17 (NIV).

Beware though, when a bunch of sharp swords are hanging out together, sometimes folks accidentally get cut. Even paper cuts can hurt tremendously, but if we can learn to appreciate the strengths of our coworkers, and ensure all the players work together, we can be the best team we’re capable of.

This lesson, learned the hard way, has encouraged me. I hope it brings some inspiration to you today as well.

Have something to share about this? I’d love to hear from you.