Free to Speak: Are your words building or dividing?

Chery Gegelman Winning Well International SymposiumPeople that work with winning well leaders...
Last week, I leveraged some extreme examples from our time in the Middle East to emphasize 6 Ways to Transform a Divisive Culture  in the Winning Well International Symposium.
 
This week, I’m sharing more of our experiences and encouraging each of you to apply some of those learning’s to your lives and leadership.

Have you ever pondered the reasons or benefits of free speech?

  • In nations?
  • Or workplaces?

The purpose of being able to speak freely

Obviously speaking freely is not allowed in many nations or workplaces.

That choice:
  • Lowers leadership accountability and potential.
  • Impacts the way two people or thousands of people work together.
  • Determines how well resources are utilized and how quickly problems are solved.
  • Limits the overall health, effectiveness, and future of their workplace or nation.

Speech was controlled in the place we lived for four years, in many ways.  Below are a few examples:

What’s your litmus test for people: Honesty or skill?

When do you fold ‘em, walk away or run?

Tell a lie once and all your truths become questionable.

Once upon a time I worked for a charismatic leader with a serious set of skills. Someone I learned from constantly and deeply admired …

  • Until I caught him in a lie.
  • And then a second one.
  • A third one.
  • A fourth one.
  • And finally a fifth one.

The crazy part was – I wasn’t hunting for lies. I literally kept tripping into them – all five in a very short amount of time after years of working together.

When I confronted for the last time. He said, “I don’t know how you keep finding these things out.” No denial. No excuses. No apology.

A short time later – I “fired him” by turning in my notice.


Titled leaders and employees can all be tempted to overlook honesty because of skill.

4 Years in Saudi Arabia: Living, Learning and Growing

We are all Ambassadors

Life begins at the end of YOUR comfort zone. YOU decide. Are YOU living or dying-Since our return home from Saudi Arabia, (A place I once feared and had zero desire to move to.)  I have been facilitating a series of workshops for students – sharing what day-to-day life was like while emphasizing critical life, leadership and people skills that they will need throughout their lives.

In each workshop students are given a visual of a natural process that will happen the rest of their lives – as they decide if they have the courage to leave their comfort zones or the grit to survive when life hands them circumstances they can’t control.

Some of the questions I’ve been asked about Saudi are worth sharing:

What was the best part?

  • Living in an International Compound: Sharing life, friendship, and food with people from more than 50 nations and learning from them.
  • Riding motorcycle with men and women from all over the world and getting to experience parts of Saudi that many expats don’t get to enjoy. (Yes – My motorcycle jacket had ½ of an abaya attached to it and could be rolled up when I was on the bike and rolled down when I was off the bike. Allowing me to be respectful and safe while enjoying time on the bike with my husband.)
  • Vacationing in 11 countries besides Saudi and Bahrain in the 4 years we were there.

What was the hardest thing for you?

In a divided world: We have more than two choices

The third option requires our brains AND our hearts

We have more than two choices... Really!

Have you ever had a small child run to you in fear?  (Of the boogeyman under the bed, the barking dog, or the crack of thunder?)

How do you respond?

Do you ignore them?  Do you dismiss them?  Do you call them boogey-phobic, dog-phobic, or noise-phobic?  Do you make fun of them?  Or do you shine a light under the bed and explain why they are safe?  Take them to meet the neighbor’s dog and see that he is friendly?  Or explain how thunder works?

Have you been a titled leader in a business and heard employees expressing concerns about fairness or potential layoffs?

How have you responded?

Do you get defensive and angry that they dare to question you?  Do you blow off their concerns?  Do you talk down to them?  Or do you hear them and respond with understanding, compassion and honesty?

communication, discussion, dialogueHave you watched divisive current events and taken a side?  And then heard from a family member, friend, coworker or neighbor that has taken the other side?

How have you been responding?

Are you ignoring them?  Unfriending them?  Labeling them?  Shouting at them?  Making fun of them?  Or are you seeking first to understand what is driving them?

Great parents, leaders and friends – listen to questions and fears without anger or labels, or a dismissive attitude.  They seek to understand, and then shine a light under the bed and address real and imagined concerns.  They are honest about real challenges and about their commitment to their people.  

The Great Divide and How You Can Build a Bridge To Cross It

We’ve been back in the U.S. for nearly 6 weeks. Watching the divide we witnessed across the ocean.  Aching as it appears to be growing deeper and wider.

I know I’m not alone in my concern for our country or in my desire to be a part of the solution. Several of my leadership connections have been sharing both struggles and wisdom in their blogs.

Alli Polin, Erin Schreyer, Steve Keating and Jesse Lyn Stoner have each written important articles to help us build bridges across that divide.

  • Each of the image quotes below highlight something from their articles that I found especially powerful.
  • Each of their original articles are linked after each image through their name.

If you are struggling with the current state of our union – I encourage you to:

  • Read each one
  • Watch the Conversation Safari video at the end of this post

And then make strategic choices to be the change you want to see