Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Where I'm From...


You don't know me but you don't like me
You say you care less how I feel
But how many of you that sit and judge me
Have ever walked the streets of Bakersfield?

                                         - Homer Joy, Streets of Bakersfield

There is an exercise I facilitate with groups to help them understand the deep diversity among them, based upon George Ella Lyon's poem "Where I’m From."

One of the takeaways of this exercise is the discovery of connection. Contrary to Joy's quote above, we bridge the gap of not liking each other. Here is Where I'm from...

Where I'm from ... we are who we are because of where we’ve been including: the people we connect with regularly, the news, the books, magazines and papers we consume, the experiences we’ve had. Our echo chambers, comfort zones come from all of these sources. We try very hard to get out of our echo chamber, our comfort zone. In fact, we recognize our calling is to help others get out their comfort zones into their learning zones and growth zones.

Where I'm from ... we had a gay brother/brother-in-law who died from AIDS. We have a gay daughter who recently got engaged to her partner and we are looking forward to celebrating their wedding.

Where I'm from ... we work with a wide range of organizations including for-profit Fortune 500 companies, not-for-profit including major universities, Building Bridges, and United Way and government entities including the E.P.A. and I.R.S. A couple of organizations have staff from all over the world. We got exposed to an incredibly diverse population that broke many molds, myths and assumptions with which we’d grown up.

Where I'm from ... we attend, support and work with Building Bridges, an organization that seeks to dismantle racism, respect diversity and encourage action. 

Where I'm from ... we attend and worship at a mission church that serves the homeless, underserved, veterans and abused. Needless to say, much of the congregation does does not look like us.  

Where I'm from ... our work has exposed us to our privilege including male privilege, white privilege, Christian privilege, leadership privilege, heterosexual privilege and American privilege. We are not ashamed of our privilege, but recognize the need to use our privilege to help those who do not have privilege. We’ve learned, if you can’t see your privilege, then you have privilege.  

Where I'm from ... we white males have the privilege of walking into our local big box grocery store past the security guard with no problem, but our black fire department cohort may get discreetly followed when he is out of uniform and in gym clothes walking past the security guard.

Where I'm from ... we Christians have the privilege of getting off work for Christmas and Good Friday, but our Jewish cohorts do not get days off for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) or Yom Kippur (Day of forgiveness). Our Muslim cohorts do not get off for Eid-Al-Aha (The sacrifice Abraham was willing to make of his son Ishmael) or Eid-Al-Fitr (The final day of celebration of Ramadan.) 

Where I'm from ... we heterosexuals have the privilege of not having to hide or lie about women/men only social gatherings. We heterosexuals have the privilege of not worrying about being asked by the school to send only one parent to "back to school night" so not to upset heterosexual parents with same-sex parents being present.
Not being asked by your child’s school to only send one parent to “back to school” night as to not upset the other parents by having two same-sex partners in the class together. - See more at: http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2012/01/29-examples-of-heterosexual-privilege/#sthash.o78slrIq.dpuf
Not being asked by your child’s school to only send one parent to “back to school” night as to not upset the other parents by having two same-sex partners in the class together. - See more at: http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2012/01/29-examples-of-heterosexual-privilege/#sthash.o78slrIq.dpuf

Where I'm from ... we are aware of our implicit bias and work to dial down our bias.

Where I'm from ... we don't read or watch USAToday, CNN, MSNBC or FOX. Not having cable television reinforces this practice. We don't listen to the talking heads including Rush Limbaugh or Rachel Maddow. We get news from Reuters, AP, BBC, and NPR, which in our opinion offer balance. One of the segments on NPR Friday edition includes conservative David Brooks and liberal E.J. Dione, who talk about the news and events of the week. Their different perspectives are mind opening for us. We read The Week magazine as they summarize all the key news and editorial OP-EDs (liberal and conservative) each week. We listen to Fareed Zakaria's GPS podcast. He is intelligent and asks thoughtful questions from his guests who come from both sides of an issue.

Where I'm from ... we read mostly non-fiction books. Two books we recommend to understand the divide in our country, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart by Bill Bishop (4/5 stars on Amazon) and Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart by Christena Cleveland, Duke Divinity Professor. (4.5/5 stars on Amazon). These two books give insight from a secular as well as religious point of view, the friction that is growing in our country. 

Where I'm from ... we check statements and "facts" especially with all the “fake news." We check facts at: Government Accounting Office, Bureau of Labor and Statistics, The National Priorities Project, Office of Management and Budget, Vera Institute of Justice, The U.S. Census Bureau, Center for Disease Control, United Nations Office on Drug and Crime, The Smithsonian Institutional Archives, The Library of Congress, PEW Research, Gallup Organization (neither poll made predictions on the 2016 election), National Conference of State Legislatures and the American Civil Liberties Union.  

Where I'm from ... we seek facts, truth and evidence from these sources and discovered since 2008:
- unemployment has fallen from 7.3% to 4.7% 
- gas at the pump dropped from $3.24/gallon to $2.24/gallon
- uninsured Americans dropped from 15% to 9.2%
- The U.S. imported oil has dropped from 11 million barrels per day to 4 million barrels per day. That number is expected to continue to drop as we are now exporting oil.
- The GDP has moved from -0.3% to +3.7%
- The Dow Jones was at 10,355 and now is over 20,000. Our retirement funds look a whole lot better!


Where I'm from ... we celebrate what people get right. We forgive when people do wrong and apologize. Obama wasn't perfect and neither was Bush. Obama made mistakes as did Bush. Affordable HealthCare Act was not perfect, but it was a start. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not perfect, but it was the right thing to do and continues to get better. We need to come up with a healthcare plan that is not tied to Wall Street and profit. Healthcare needs to be a right, not a privilege. The two things at the foundation of a great nation are good, affordable education for all and good, affordable healthcare for all.

Where I'm from ... we study leadership from The Leadership Challenge. The Leadership Challenge is about the five practices of exemplary leadership - model the way, enable others to act, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process and encourage the heart - they are what we use to determine the ability of a person to lead well.

Where I'm from ... we make the five practices the gold standard for holding the President of the United States or any leader accountable. Where I'm from ... these five practices are what is expected from someone who calls himself/herself a leader. They are what we are committed to doing and to what we hold ourselves accountable. Where I'm from ... the older we get, the better we should be at living into these five practices. 

You may not like Where I'm from ... . You may not agree with Where I'm from ... . But it is essential we get together for discussion about Where I'm from ... and where you are from. Discussion trumps argument. Argument is about finding out who is right. Discussion is about learning from each other and finding out what is right.

Friday, February 3, 2017

President Trump, I've Got a Couple of Suggestions

We see what we want to see, many times missing what we need to see. It’s our filters, our perceptions of truth and reality.

When I look at Trump, I see a ruthless business person, rather than professional non-compromising politician. Trump has taken the office of President of the United States with a mindset of a C.E.O. He wants to turn a perceived failed “company” into a profitable one. If we look at the United States of America as another Trump business deal, then consider this.

Trump’s “Board of Directors” is made up of three parties - Congress, the Supreme Court and the Citizens of the United States of America. All parties being human bring different levels of education, perspective, belief, hopes, dreams, moral values as well a huge melting pot of diversity. They are not all the same (as much as we may wish they were). I do not consider his cabinet to be a part of the
Board of Directors because Trump chooses his cabinet and cabinet members serve at his will. In organizations, the Board of Directors choose the C.E.O. and the C.E.O. serves according to the collective will of the Board of Directors.

The relationship between Trump and
Board of Directors is a deep mix of: love-hate; preferring Trump to be ________ versus expecting Trump to be _________; fully trusting to fully distrusting.

As with any leader of any organization or team, trust and credibility are essential. They are the currency of leadership. Trust is the linchpin in Trump's relationship with Americans. I like Charles Feltman, The Thin Book of Trust. Feltman writes there are four dimensions to trust: sincerity, reliability, competency and compassion. To live and to behave well in all four of these dimensions requires humility. Jim Collins, Good to Great, writes fifth level leaders have fierce resolve and humility. This is where Trump fails at trust. His lack of humility prevents him from being:


- sincere (apologies are loaded with sarcasm and failed ownership) “I've never said I'm a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I'm not.” (Response to 2005 Access Hollywood video clip with Billy Bush on what he thought of women.)


- reliable (failed promises) “If I decide to run for office, I’ll produce my tax returns, absolutely and I would love to do that.” May 2014 interview with an Irish Television Station.


- competency (weak political experience, questionable intellect, thin temperament, poor people skills) Trump is seen as a Twitter Cry-Bully, which is highly un-C.E.O. and very un-Presidential.


- compassion (lack of love for fellow human beings) Evidence includes Trump’s executive order on immigration ban, a quart low on compassion as well as his executive order to go ahead and expedite the Dakota pipeline dismissing Native American tribes. Trump's disbelief in scientific consensus over climate change, the rise of nationalism, the threat of a renewed arms race between the U.S. and Russia  has moved the Nuclear Doomsday Clock  2.5 minutes closer to midnight, closest it's been in 64 years! Note: The Doomsday Clock members are atomic scientists of which 18 are Nobel laureates.

But the ultimate trust and credibility killer is misinformation, alternative facts and untruths that seem to not only be the norm with Trump and his administration, but given a pass by Trump supporters. There are universal truths that cut across opinion, desire, culture, race and status. If you are are not open to universal truths, which can be inconvenient truths, then you perpetuate ignorance and suffering.

I offer a couple of solutions and ways for Trump to gain trust, shore up integrity and build credibility.
 

Joel Barker, futurist, author and educator created the Implications Wheel back in the 1970s. It is a type of mind map. I find this tool to be powerful in helping individuals and organizations to look at facts, evidence, universal truths and implications of any situation, product, service or pending change for insight to possible future outcomes. Powerful, thoughtful questions are at the root of discovery and better outcomes. The Implications Wheel helps ask powerful "what if..." questions.


Another tool to consider is Michael Michalko's THINKPAK a 56 brainstorming card deck. You begin by writing down a subject or challenge. Then you systematically go through cards, 3 through 47 in order of: substitute; combine; adapt; modify or magnify; put it to some other use; eliminate; reverse or rearrange. Every card has challenging questions to consider related to the principle topic of the card. Another approach is to draw randomly from the cards. Cards 48 through 56 are ways to evaluate what you learn.

Finally, Edward DeBono's Six Thinking Hats is another tool for creative, thoughtful, purposeful thinking. DeBono's method is to look at a problem or situation from six different points of view including: the facts (white hat); emotion (red hat); negative ramifications (black hat); positive ramifications (yellow hat); brainstorming (green hat); action steps (blue hat). 

All three of these tools move thinking away from the way we've always thought to stimulate the imagination, to generate ideas and to understand possible outcomes. These constructive, thoughtful, insightful tools have saved individuals and organizations missteps, money, embarrassment and shame. They force cognitive dissonance and critical thinking. Used effectively and deliberately, I believe any of these tools could prevent a war. In fact, I believe they could have stopped the United States from invading Iraq.

What if Trump and ALL of cabinet used the Implications Wheel, THINKPAK or Six Thinking Hats regularly? It could foster understanding leading to fewer protests. These tools could help him to see what he needs to see. It might help him find a doable, workable, affordable alternative to Obamacare. It might help him roll back the Nuclear Doomsday Clock several minutes. It could help him to figure out how to build a bridge rather than a wall between America and Mexico. It might even help Trump to use Twitter in a better way. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Moving Forward From The 2016 Election...

Peggy Guggenheim collection, Venice, Italy
I continue to noodle and ponder the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election ...

I have been having some tough conversations with others who supported Trump as well as Clinton as I am sure many of you are. There are a lot of tension, wounds (some self-inflicted), uneasiness, resentment and anger. Distrust is rampant toward everything, including 140+ "fake" news sources, and everybody. We are creating an unhealthy, toxic environment for ourselves and for others.

It is up to each of us to stop it.

Consider the ageless wisdom of The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz:

    1. Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Keep your promises. Be sincere. Be reliable. Make sure what is written on your resume is verifiable and truthful. Be compassionate in conversation with others.

   2. Don't take anything personally. What people say and do is a projection of their reality. Their perception may not be reality. What is their reality is not your reality. To embrace someone else's reality is to suffer.


   3. Don't make assumptions. Ask questions. Ask more questions. Seek to understand before being understood. This one practice can reduce conflict and suffering. Avoiding assumptions can be transformative. 

   4. Always do your best. Be your best. Give your best. By always doing, being and giving your best, you avoid self-deception and the unawareness of what's beyond ourselves.

Ruiz's writing is the second greatest commandment of the Christian faith in detail, "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:39, NIV). Don't take that concept neighbor lightly. Recognize your neighbor is the person who voted opposite of you. Recognize your neighbor is the person who didn't vote. Recognize your neighbor is the 'least of these.' Recognize your neighbor is the immigrant, the Muslim, the LGBTQ. Recognize your neighbor is marginally informed. Recognize your neighbor is the 'other.' That is a very tough challenge and yet it is what Christ did. He modeled the way and asked those who follow Him to do the same.  

I put faith before politics. I put my neighbor before my politics. I do not see Jesus Christ being a Republican, a Democrat, a Libertarian, a Socialist or a Communist. He didn't come to take sides, yet many will justify Christ supporting their political view. If you can justify Christ supporting your political view then you believe the Constitution holds more wisdom than the Gospel and when you die, you are going to Washington, DC.

Second, part of this commandment is even tougher for me - love myself first with all my scars, failures, brokenness, imperfections, and delusions ... so I can love my neighbor. As the late Brennan Manning wrote in The Ragamuffin Gospel, "To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side, I learn who I am and what God's grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, 'A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.'" 

To love myself just as I am, is to be open and vulnerable. Openness and vulnerability means asking questions and listening rather than telling and ignoring. We all live in a state of being marginally informed. No one has a monopoly on knowledge, information, facts and truth, including the talking heads on radio, television and social media. We would all benefit from being a lot more curious and questioning than assuming and judging based upon our marginal knowledge. 

Another very tough scripture I'm trying to live into from this 2016 Presidential election is from 1 Thessalonians 5:18 "give thanks in all circumstances." How do you give thanks for the fire that destroyed your home? How do you give thanks for being without a job? How do you give thanks for the candidate you did not vote for? How do you give thanks for depression?

Mitford series author, Jan Karon, In This Mountain, has her main character, Father Tim, deal with depression. It's from 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that Father Tim finds solace and peace to deal with his depression. Father Tim experiences deeper gratitude for his life and what is in his life. Furthermore, he discovers more compassion for others. 

I submit to you, The Four Agreements, loving yourself just as you are so you can love others, and Thessalonians 5:18 may be the healing balm we need moving forward from this election.