Navigating the Obstacle Course: The Importance of a Beginner’s Mind


When I train groups of leaders I often bring in an obstacle course that 2 participants have to navigate -- blindfolded! -- with the help of the rest of the group.  Here is the trick: the group that can “see” may only use their voices to guide their blindfolded team members through the course.

When the exercise is over and we are debriefing the experience, people tend to have a few takeaways:

"People in other departments, people in outside organizations, and new hires all have blindfolds on when it comes to my work.  They don’t know what I do. The don’t know what I need.  I see and understand the situation; they don’t.”

Other departments are ignorant about things you are expert in and that is normal.  They are experts in other things! 

What can you do to help others better understand your world? 


Have a beginner’s mind. 


How would you explain your project, your request, your issue, your department, your assignment to someone who:

1.      has no experience or expertise in your subject;

2.     has their own demanding job and expectations that they have to deliver on.


Reach out and be curious about their area of expertise and the current scope of their work.  Understanding the project pressure and deadlines of others will help you plan what you need from them and decide when, how, and what to communicate to them when collaboration is necessary.

These types of conversations build rapport. 

Start with the Relationships that Matter Most

To be successful, who do you need to have the strongest relationships with?

Which relationship would you most like to improve? 

Reach out and find a time to connect when you don’t need something – except an easier, smoother, working relationship. Learn about their world. Invite them into yours. With a better understanding of each other’s “obstacle course,” and some agreements about how to best communicate so that you can help each other be successful, you will have fewer “blindspots” as you go about your day.

Who do you need to reach out to and have a Beginners Mind conversation with?