Practicing ‘without attachment’ encourages collaborative teamwork

As published by BusinessBlogs on 23 July, 2013.

Recently I discussed the concept of ‘without attachment’ with a colleague here in New Zealand, which essentially means emotionally detaching from the outcome of a situation, even if momentarily, to enable a greater focus on the process.

I wondered what would happen if I turned my back on attaching to the outcome of whatever was in front of me or what I was focussing on, just for one week.

Was it really possible to be a good leader without attachment to the desired final outcome?

Without attachment - The Leader's Digest

My experiment revealed there are in fact many benefits for leaders who can lean into this concept of ‘without attachment’, even just a little.

Here are the 4 top lessons I learned as a result of my experiment in practicing less attachment to my preconceived outcome:

1. Being present. Attachment can lead to vital clues being missed during an interaction with another person, a meeting, the solving of a problem (or in my case) a coaching session. When we work with ‘what is’*, it can often be the seed of new growth and opportunities.

2. Better teamwork. I discovered my target seeking nature would sometimes sweep others along for the ride, leaving them unable to express their own ideas or conflicting opinions. At worst, they felt manipulated. Conversely, practising less focus on predetermined outcomes encourages a more collaborative environment, where all team members can contribute their individual strengths –  everyone has a voice, not just you.

3. Active listening. I found myself making room for other wonderful things to occur –  like listening. Not being distracted by our preconceived desired outcome enables us to focus attention to simply doing our best at every given moment, and letting the results take care of themselves.

4. Accepting uncertainty. Releasing the need to know. The reality is even if we think we know the future, no one can predict what is yet to come. Worrying about what might happen drains energy from the present, and what is within our locus of control right now.

I’m sure my attachment habits will return, probably realistic and necessary in this results driven world we operate in, however I now have the insights to loosen my grip, even just a little,  on fixating on outcomes before allowing a process to take its natural course.

In addition to these four lessons, a key learning for me was being reminded of the value of experimentation, and why trying a different approach from the normal modus operandi can be so beneficial.

Notice when you are strongly attached to a particular outcome, and imagine what it would feel like to NOT be attached to this outcome?

What might happen?

How would you behave differently?

How might this attachment be holding you or others back?

What solutions or creative outputs could occur if you were not so attached to a predetermined outcome?

*Thanks to my friend and coach extraordinaire, Anouk Graav from Spirited Leadership for teaching me to “work with what is.”


  1. […] When the judges respond with critical feedback, they are torn to shreds. The dream is crushed. Their ‘beliefs’ are shattered. For the first time in their lives, they have received objective feedback, without attachment. […]

  2. aquariancore on December 18, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    Attachments can have a multitude of effects on life. The key is to determine their value, if any at all. Their attributes can range from the extremes of buoying you to holding you down. Which ever the deal the key is to look for the positives even from the worst of outcomes.

    • The Leader's Digest on December 18, 2013 at 11:29 pm

      Absolutely – perception is everything. Thanks for sharing. Suzi.

  3. ENNA A. BACHELOR on December 18, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    Great read for me. In the past I have become “too” involved in projects and it does narrow your view. Thanks!

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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