Weekender: Dan Trachtenberg on Collaboration

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Welcome to another edition of leadersayswhat’s the Weekender, a clover of thought to start your weekend on the right track. Why just a clover (versus an entire clover field)? Because it’s the weekend!

Leaders both new and experienced often fall into the trap of feeling as if they need to know all the answers. When issues arise, they close their door, plot out a solution, and emerge with a fully-formed plan. But doesn’t this shortchange the benefits of having a team? That is Dan Trachtenberg’s experience.

Dan Trachtenberg is the director of the recently released film 10 Cloverfield Lane. This was his first major film and in a recent interview, Dan wasn’t shy about his lack of experience:

The thing I realized early on, being that this was my first thing, was that it would be stupid for me to pretend like it wasn’t my first thing.

To combat his novice-ness, Dan surrounded himself with a strong group of professionals and, instead of acting as if he’s the “all-knowing guru,” he involved them in the decision making process:

I really loved that we found awesome collaborators in every position… There are some things, certainly when you envision something, some things that you see very clearly that you really want it to be a certain way and how do we navigate things to get it that way. There are also some things that I know what I want it to feel like but I really want to listen to what you have to say, my project designer, or whatever. Because if you’re just telling everyone what to do, then the thing will only be as good as what you can come up with. If you listen to other people, it has a chance of being much better than what your one mind can think of.

Before you write off Dan’s collaborative spirit as a necessity for his beginner status, consider that Dan’s partner on this project was the great J. J. Abrams who also touted his continuing reliance on collaboration when making films.

If you surround yourself with a strong team, ask yourself why they aren’t more involved in the problem solving phase versus simply carrying out your plans. They have expertise and life lessons that, if utilized, provide perspectives you lack.

Don’t settle for a plan that is only be as good as what you can come up with. Let your team be the sounding board you need to flesh out thoughts, ask the questions you need to consider, and add the details you need to successfully address an issue. As Dan said, with team involvement your final product will much better than what your one mind can think of.

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