We could all use a break from the headlines and constant barrage of insults, accidents and trauma. SHIFT is happening – that is clear. Mother nature is pissed off, and deep rage is erupting everywhere. Old ways of being and working cannot continue as norms are shifting quickly. Here are some thoughts on how to navigate all these changes and gain perspective.
How To Manage Through Challenge?
While we would hope that “behaving badly” should be obvious and addressed by society, it has been disheartening to realize how much we have ignored, overlooked and avoided dealing with it. Leaders can no longer abuse their power through silence or ignorance, by allowing sexual harassment, racism, collusion and other inappropriate activities to happen under their watch or worse, through their actions. While transparency has increased in many ways, hidden rules that give certain individuals or companies competitive advantages cannot and likely will no longer go unquestioned. The status quo is being shaken up and for good reason – power that disenfranchises others and prevents equal access to opportunities must be addressed. Calling truth to power is no easy task, but the impetus to stand up for our values is becoming stronger than the fear and silence.
Acknowledging the Obvious
I worked for many years in the financial services sector and witnessed firsthand as widely accepted business practices were called into question and challenged by those who felt taken advantage of. Changes finally came about as a result of lawsuits by customers not being treated fairly. Not surprisingly, industry responses ranged from wonder (what took so long?) from those in the know, to shock and amazement by those outside the industry (how could these questionable business practices go unnoticed?). How are wrongful behaviors allowed to continue for so long?
We all sense when something doesn’t seem right – it just feels off. We over-ride our inner knowing when everyone else is acting a certain way – it can be difficult to challenge or question established practices. Finding our voice can be very hard. What to say? How to say it? When and to whom? What will the implications be? The disconnect around addressing improprieties occurs for many reasons, not least of which is that people don’t like change and they don’t know what kind of response they will get. Those with power and influence appreciate their perks and may be unwilling to lose their “competitive” advantage, while those with less control may be operating out of fear and a desire to go along to fit in and make a living. While knowledge is power, this alone is not enough to drive change.
Understand Your Impact
Awareness is one of the first important drivers of change. We need to realize something is not right and can be done differently. More importantly, we may need to be personally impacted before deciding we no longer do things the same way. Ideally we would come to this conclusion ourselves, but more likely, someone lets us know when they don’t appreciate how we handled something. Unfortunately, by then it can be too late and the consequences can be more severe. It can be hard to acknowledge when something isn’t working if we are wedded to our way of doing things – do we have a vested interest in maintaining “business as usual”?
Look For The Opportunity in the Challenge
When someone calls us out on something we are doing they don’t agree with, this is an opportunity to reassess. First, listen and absorb. Try to see it from their perspective. Maybe you never thought of it that way. Perhaps we won’t agree with their perspective. Consider applying the “sniff test” – does what happened smell right? Sometimes it can be hard to remain calm without getting defensive. How dare they criticize? Didn’t they realize that was not my intention? It can be easy to get caught up in what you meant, but this is a way of belittling the other person’s experience. Being questioned merely means that we made assumptions based on our experience that were not true for someone else. Bringing greater clarity to underlying assumptions can be enlightening – it helps to understand whether people are operating from a common framework or not. While disconnects can be especially painful, they are also powerful occasions to look at things that may not be working as well as they could. Conflicts can actually be an opportunity to learn, adapt and grow. We need to welcome chances to increase our awareness, sensitivity and overall effectiveness – can we find the value in new information without shifting to blame?
Learning To See Things Differently
We are in a world that is rapidly changing and we need to adapt. We have a choice – we can insist on doing what we’ve always done or we can be open to a broader perspective. I am trying to be more mindful of my own actions and impact. I am acutely aware that learning and operating in new ways takes a lot of energy, patience and practice. I am curious to hear from you if the recent news has caused you to look at your actions differently or have strong reactions.
I am exploring ways to help organizations build cultures that foster greater communication and collaboration based on shared values and behaviors. I believe organizations that clearly articulate their vision, values and accepted behaviors will be more successful. Those that can align these with their brand, messaging, strategy and culture will truly accelerate their growth. Organizations that operate and communicate consistently around how they treat their employees, customers and partners will be the most successful growth leaders.
Please contact me to talk more about organizational culture, brand and vision – I would love to learn how you are approaching these challenges.