A week or so before leaving the UK for Aus, I made my first e-bay auction purchase. I placed my first bid two days before bidding was due to close, and quickly realized that was not the way to play the game. Approximately 60 seconds before close of bidding I pressed ‘enter’ leaving inadequate time for the next person to outbid me, and a box set of the West Wing television series was mine! Possibly the most satisfactory purchase I have made in a few years, I have ended many of the last 40 or so days with an episode or two. I am hooked!
It has got me thinking though, why do I and so many others I know enjoy it so much? It’s not that I have aspirations to serve in ‘the White House’ nor am I attracted to blue collar professional society. Growing up in a family of doctors, and later as a doctor myself, I rebelled against the societal norms and expectations of that professional or class circle. So it’s not that, and my guess is I wont be able to put my finger on what it is exactly, but will have to settle for exploring some of the things that get me thinking when I engage with the story.
For the uninitiated, the series follows the journey of a White House senior staff of about 10, from campaign to election and through a couple of terms of office. It’s fast moving, challenging and often heartwarming as it weaves the characters lives with that of the nation. The staff all have very different roles and are exceptionally good at what they do as individuals but also as a team. I think this is where it starts to get fascinating and attractive. Sometimes it can feel like a happy Never-Never land where powerful people have disagreements, adjust to one another and move on to continue working together with high levels of loyalty. Trust gets broken from time to time and it’s fascinating to see how it gets worked out in the narrative, sometimes over a long period of time, but it is usually recovered. Sounds like a dream world, hey?!
So Sam is pushing for a high profile deal and his colleague suddenly disagrees with him during the negotiations, they step outside, Sam goes off at his colleague for undermining him, she then explains what she has realised and how if they change tacks they’ll land a much better deal for the team. He see’s it, capitulates and lands the new deal within seconds.
How does that happen? Well, in my experience it only happens when we all know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are all on the same team, shooting for the same goal with 101% commitment. Then we can have heated discussions whilst remaining open to one another because we want to get to clearer truth; there’s no room for hidden agendas and it’s far less about my ego, and ‘being right’ than it is about getting to where we all want to be.
It’s what we teach, but we don’t always see it amongst ourselves, maybe that’s one reason why some of us like the West Wing team; they remind us of what we can be lest we forget and settle for less.