Make it Work (even when you don’t want to)

Let’s get this out of the way – I watch Project Runway. And I love Tim Gunn. So there.

On Project Runway this week, it was a team challenge (and an unconventional one to boot!). I always find these fascinating because even though the creative process seems to be a very personal thing, the reality of the fashion industry is that you MUST work with teams if you want to be successful.

I get that, because I am happiest working on my own. My idea of happy group work is we meet to talk about what has to be done, everyone knows their part, and then we go away and do our parts on our own, and then we come back together and it all magically works! The reality is that this NEVER works…you actually have to work with people on stuff all at the same time. Drat.

Since we have to find ways to make teams work (especially when we don’t get to pick the team), I submit the following lessons from Project Runway. Oh, and it’s more fun if you read them in Tim Gunn’s voice. [Caution – SPOILERS AHEAD]

  • Chemistry matters: Helen and Kate rocked the challenge and Helen won because they realized that they had more in common than they thought. And this is after Helen started the season believing Kate was the biggest bitch in the world. Figure out a way to get to know your team on a human level so you can interact in a healthy way.tim_gunn
  • If you have an issue with a person, talk to THAT person…not everyone else: Miranda and Timothy (our precious little unicorn) were a TRAIN WRECK of a team. They had some personal history that colored every interaction. And then, when Miranda struggled to work with Timothy’s free spirit, she took her whining to the workroom, not Timothy. This did not end well. If you are having issues working with someone, have a conversation about it WITH THAT PERSON. You’ve heard of the “drama triangle“? Don’t make one.
  • Admit when you’ve been a jerk: To Miranda’s credit, she did pull herself together and admitted to Timothy that she handled the situation incorrectly and that she should have talked to him. This lesson was also learned in an earlier season when Mondo apologized to Michael C. for being a dick. It’s amazing how far that simple apology can go towards creating innovation and results. If you’ve been a jerk – apologize and move on. And if someone apologizes to you, accept it and move on. Don’t be Timothy, who threw Miranda under the bus on the runway, thus making him look like a weenie.
  • Play up each others’ strengths: The top looks (Helen/Kate, Dom/Alexandria) worked because the team knew what each others’ strengths were and used them. Kate’s contruction + Helen’s edginess = awesome. Alexandria’s design + Dom’s create eye = cool. Regardless of who is on your team, you need to find out what they can contribute. It makes for a more functional team, builds buy-in, and can lead to some amazing results!
  • Check the ego at the door: Team work means team results – not “I was awesome but the team sucked, but it doesn’t matter because I’m going to point out why I’m so awesome.” Do what you need to do to make sure the team gets results. Sandro is pretty much crazy, and Sue has great ideas in her own designs. But Sandro’s single-mindedness, and a decision to make a sewing-reliant design, meant that Sue’s desire to put up obstacles had to be put aside in order to make sure the team had something to present. I guarantee she wouldn’t do that every time, but she realized that if she kept fighting with Sandro, they’d never complete their look. Sometimes you have to take one for the team.

What team situations have you been in where you had a “Make it Work” moment? Share in the comments!!

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