Red Teaming with your Co-workers: Get Their Opinion

Before the C.I.A. went live with their invasion of Osama Bin Laden’s enclave, they Red Teamed the operation. I had never heard of Red Teaming before this week, but it sounds sexy and mysterious, so no doubt Hollywood will soon turn it into everyday slang.  

A news show I saw taught me that Red Teaming is testing your strategy with an unaffiliated third party.  In the C.I.A.’s case, they went to intelligence experts who had no previous knowledge of the operation. These specialists were able to take a fresh look at the proposed plan and identify gaps overlooked by those too close to the process. 

Your own office may offer you the first opportunity since you were eight years old to act like an international agent. Like the C.I.A, you shouldn’t be afraid to get a second opinion on your work before you finalize it.  If you don’t think you nailed an important assignment, it’s ok to run it by a colleague. Your colleague could be your same level or higher…as long as you value her opinion and don’t think she will sabotage you (seriously!)

Seeking a second opinion may seem like obvious advice, but…have you ever been embarrassed to ask your manager if something is “good enough?”  I plead guilty to that charge. In the beginning of my career I was tasked to write a cover letter for a client proposal. The letter was intended for a huge client of the firm- so I was nervous. But I didn’t want to ask for help on such a small assignment and risk looking incompetent.  After I wrote the letter and was rereading it for the third time, my boss walked by and asked if I wanted him to read it. “It’s always good to have another set of eyes to look over your work,” he casually mentioned.  Incredible. He helped me out without making me feel stupid. And I’m sure he genuinely believed what he said. In subsequent years I had many colleagues more senior than I ask me to review their work. 

Obviously, you don’t want to seek approval on every shred of your work or colleagues will begin to hide from you.  But a little Red Teaming on key assignments should help lock-in little career successes along the way.