I am one of those people who is pretty decisive. I have strong intuition, which guides my decisions and helps me wrap my head around things with great certainty in a short amount of time. My husband refers to me as being “High Speed, Low Drag.” It is a great strength with an incredible Achilles heel. After all, I believe that intuition is always right, but my interpretation of it isn’t. In other words, when we get the niggle of intuition, we don’t always translate it’s meaning correctly. Sometimes I forget that, and I can fall into the trap of needing to be right. Can you relate?
Usually, when we feel we are right, we seek evidence that supports only our point of view. We turn a blind eye, often unconsciously, to evidence that negates our idea or offers an alternative. Taken to the extreme, our worlds can become myopic, distorted, and small because we assume anyone who doesn’t support our point of view is “wrong.” It creates a black-and-white scenario in an otherwise technicolor world.
In a world where technology fuels such a dynamic using algorithms that show us content it assumes we align with, it makes sense that we are becoming increasingly divided. After watching The Social Dilemma, I made the bold choice to no longer participate in social media (with the exception of LinkedIn and Pinterest 😊) over two years ago. If you haven’t seen it, it shows how social media greatly contributes to the chasm widening in our country and beyond and how it deeply affects our mental health and well-being. (And like with most decisions, I made the decision to stop participating with certainty and alacrity.) The reality is that it is indeed easier to surround ourselves with people who believe what we believe. However, it can also cement our “correct” point of view without considering other points of view that could broaden our perspective.
As Leaders and Coaches of Leaders, one of the greatest skills we can hone is opening ourselves and others to diversity of thought, in order to heal divides and bring alignment to our teams, our communities, and ourselves. It is far easier to lead a team well aligned from the start, surrounding yourself with like-minded people. I’ve fallen into the trap of hiring “mini-me” employees to bolster my team. It made everything easier on the surface, but it didn’t make things better. We had major skill gaps and significant blind spots, which ultimately slowed down our growth and success. A homogeneous group may feel easier to belong to, but it may inadvertently limit alternate viewpoints and creativity. When we bring in diversity of thought and perspective, it may raise the level of discourse and even provoke conflict, which can be challenging to hold space for. It can slow our decision-making down. But it ultimately speeds up our success because we can paint a full technicolor picture versus a myopic black-and-white one.
“Seek First to Understand, Then To Be Understood” –Stephen R. Covey
Before we create a container for our teams and communities, we must first begin with ourselves. Ask yourself, as a Leader, how can I be open to diversity of thought? We often say we are open when listening to other points of view when, in truth, we are actually buttoning our lips while engaging in an active inner dialogue. We have to be intentional about focusing our attention and thought “over there” on the other and trusting that we can formulate our thoughts when the time comes because that is a well-built muscle. We must seek to understand, which requires curiosity and a willingness to dig in until you “get” their point of view. I call this putting on someone else’s skin. How is it to perceive the world, or at the very least, this topic, from their perspective? Be curious about how they formulated this point of view. What’s the narrative that informs their belief?
And then look for where you and they are aligned. We are often quick to point out how we are different, but I have seen, over and over, that fundamentally, people are far more aligned than they initially believe. Even when many differences exist, on a deep level we usually have more in common than not. We align in what I call the “Sweet Spot,” the space where our circles overlap in a Venn diagram. The possibilities for a technicolor world lie in that Sweet Spot.
This doesn’t mean we don’t share our full circle with others. But when we choose to share our point of view, it should be shared from the place of “I want you to see the world through my eyes” and in the hopes that they find understanding and see where your circles overlap.
This work can be confronting and difficult if conflict is high or trust has been shaky. Getting support from someone who can create a safe container and facilitate a dialogue can be helpful, especially when the stakes are high. If you are looking for that support, let me know; I’m happy to help you find the right person.
It’s clear that our world needs more of this type of work to heal growing divides—between CEOs, Execs, and their people; our political parties; and warring nations and beyond. We may not directly impact these scenarios, but we can do this work in our own realms and in our own backyards. Strengthening our silk strand in the web of humanity only makes the whole stronger.
I’d love to hear your best practices and wisdom regarding how you create alignment with your teams, clients, communities, families, and beyond. I always love hearing from you!