Let this be your resolution in 2015… “I SEE People”

I spend several hours each week helping my young neighbors improve their English. Last week one of the girls brought a library book that she had chosen for a book report.

I see people

She chose the book because it was short – not because of the content. It was a book about an all black baseball team  in the 1940’s in America. (A land and a time she can’t relate to.)  …So as she read the book I had a lot of explaining to do.

And that opened the door to talk about how racism and perceptions impact individuals and our world.

When she left, I thought more about the lives that are impacted:

  1. Being so invisible that people look right through you as if you aren’t there.
  2. Having people make assumptions about your knowledge and ability to contribute based on your job function.
  3. Having the same qualifications as someone else but legally being offered significantly lower wages because of your skin color or surname.
  4. Not being allowed to sit in certain public places because of your job function.

These are all situations I’ve considered partially because of where we are from and partially because of where we live now. …Situations that I’ve rarely been on the receiving end of.

However, on a recent vacation I gained a greater understanding:

We were traveling in a country filled with many poor people that have struggled harder than usual over the past few years. As we approached and departed from every tourist site merchants, just like in every other country in the world, surrounded us.

The difference here was that these merchants were desperate and more aggressive than usual. They wouldn’t just walk beside you as you exited an attraction, they would surround you, walk in front of you, shove their items at you and all speak at once.

Our guide told us not to engage with them in any way. At first we all struggled to do that, after all they were human beings. However, we quickly realized that acknowledging them instantly increased the volume of people we were surrounded with and the intensity of their efforts.

We felt dehumanized ~ like we were simply walking dollar signs, not people.

We felt harassed and the more often it happened the more defensive and angry I felt.

And then I felt guilty…

  • Guilty for having what these people needed.
  • Guilty for not knowing how to engage with them in a way that respected their humanity.
  • Guilty for being defensive and angry.

And then sad, realizing that someone needed to break the cycle of dehumanizing the other, and not knowing how to do so in this situation.

Towards the end of the vacation, each one of those encounters caused enough of an adrenalin surge that it took some time to recover.

As I struggled to recover from one of those interactions, I found a new perspective and reasons to be thankful for the experiences.

  • Thankful to have a tiny taste of what these merchants must feel like as people walk by them daily and don’t SEE them as individuals.
  • Thankful that we don’t have to fight so hard to survive.
  • Thankful for the reminder that we have so much that we take it for granted.

And although I still wish we had figured out how to engage with them in a meaningful way, the experience has encouraged me to be more intentional about engaging with people where I live that are usually unseen.

Look deeper and see people for who they really are

 

Here’s the thing. You don’t have to live in the 1940’s or vacation in the Middle East to practice seeing and valuing others.

As titled leaders Do you judge your employee’s ability to contribute by their current job function or by their knowledge and their potential? (I can tell you endless stories about people without titles that had the answers companies were looking for.)

As parents Are you teaching your children to value others by their job function, their skin color, their looks, or simply because they are human beings? (Your child could become a wise and compassionate leader that creates opportunities for thousands one day…)

As neighbors – Who lives near you that is not really SEEN? (When we choose to open our eyes, to learn their names, to intentionally greet them, to give of ourselves we change their world and our own.)


 Want more about how this topic relates to your organization?

A New Perspective at the Pyramids

My husband and I just returned from his biggest bucket list vacation, EGYPT!  ..And the last remaining wonder of the ancient world!

A new perspective at the Pyramids

In spite of wonders like the Pyramids, the Temples, and the Nile ~ Egypt has experienced significant declines in tourism because of the continued reports about the conflicts in their country…

  • Our first day of the vacation we visited places that were surrounded by armored vehicles, armed guard stations, and lots of men with rifles.
  • On our second day, an armed guard accompanied us as we drove and walked. (It was quite an adventure to have a guard follow 5 of us through the city!)
  • On the fourth day we met an fully armed group at 3:30 in the morning and caravanned to our destination.

Although we experienced no threats, it was hard to miss that safety was not something to take for granted! 

Later that day we began to see things from another perspective…

  • FIRST – One of the friends we were traveling with commented about all of the travel alerts he was receiving about the safety of traveling in the U.S. ~ because of racial tensions and riots.
  • THEN – A young man that served us drinks, asked if the U.S. was safe, because of all that he’d been watching in the news.

In that moment we had an almost “out of body experience” as we mentally floated outside of our bubble and viewed our comfort zone through the eyes of others.

  • They were viewing our beloved country through the filters of the media and from the perspective of personal safety.  (Just as we’d been viewing the beloved country and comfort zone of others.)
  • And they were reacting with as much caution about what was unfamiliar to them, as we were perceiving in a land that was unfamiliar to us.

What a powerful moment as we recognized the blinders we wear in our own comfort zones.

When we returned from our trip I posted several beautiful pictures on Facebook.

  • In an effort to keep it real, I also shared one photo that highlighted the poverty, rubble and trash we witnessed in Cairo.
  • Within 24 hours a friend from the U.S. added this comment to that photo, “Come to certain sections of Houston and see the same thing.”

…Another reminder of how easy it is to SEE opportunities when we are viewing something for the first time, and to have dimmed eyesight in the places we are familiar with.  

  • As a leader… How do you keep your blinders off when you walk through your organization and meet with your employees and your customers?
  • As family member… What do you do to examine your opportunities before pointing to the opportunities of others?
  • As a neighbor… Do you recognize the individual human lives and the needs in your city?

Learning’s from previous vacations here:  

EXTREME TESTING: Practicing what you believe in

This week has been filled with the wrapping up of several projects, the planning of future projects, and the packing of suitcases for a much-needed break.

iStock_000014403937XSmall

And in that space, I’ve been pondering the past few months.

This fall was a season of EXTREME TESTING.  (Only the teacher forgot to warn me that the tests were coming so I didn’t get to study.  And truthfully, I didn’t realize how much testing was occuring – until things slowed down and I paused to reflect.)

It’s worth noting that although the tests were different, one theme was repeated over and over again:  When I’m under-fire ~Do I really practice what I say I believe in and write about?  (A sampling of some of the tests are listed below on the left, previous articles are on the right.)

Band-Aids and EASY Buttons -Or- SOLUTIONS?

An owner of a couple of small businesses is frustrated with dwindling profits.

Easy Button

He blames his staff, treats them badly, moves them to different locations, stalls their vacations and refuses to listen to their feedback.

The truth is:

  • He has been an absentee owner that has happily collected profits from the businesses while choosing not to be involved in day-to-day operations.
  • He hasn’t trained his employees or empowered them to make decisions.
  • He has not been engaged with his customers and doesn’t know what they value.
  • He hasn’t been proactive about growing his businesses or even keeping up with his competitors.
  • His prices are higher than the competition and his facilities are cramped, cluttered, outdated, and equipped with poor quality equipment and tools.

Consumed by a Problem You Can’t Solve?

Several years ago an executive told me that if I knew about a problem that was unsolved, it didn’t matter how hard I wanted to be a part of the solution,…   I was a part of the problem until it was solved.  

beating your head against the wall

Ouch. That was a hard pill to swallow.


Recently I was reminded of that pill, as someone contacted me and asked for my help.