I’ve been working with a group of pre and early teens and we’ve been talking about perceptions and reality. In our last meeting, I asked if they have ever greeted someone and not been greeted in return. Emphatically – yes!
So I broke them up into small groups and asked them to come up with a list of at least 15 reasons why someone they greeted would not respond.
At first they listed things like this:
- They hate me
- They are mean
- They are rude
- They are a bully
- They are racist
It took awhile for them to start coming up with reasons like this:
I was raised in a tiny town in rural America with a population less of less than three thousand people. When I was first married, my husband and I met a couple that were raised in the second largest city in the U.S. with a population of almost four million.
The husband had been in street gangs and literally fought for his life.
When he asked what was dangerous in my hometown, he just about busted a gut when I said… “Gossip.”
Words were no threat to someone who had dodged bullets.
It seemed insensitive and pointless to try to argue that King Solomon really knew what he was talking about when he said, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”
When bullets are flying – gossip won’t kill you.
But here’s the thing…
I was recently visiting with someone about the goals of young professionals in a specific location. She said that everyone wants to be a manager.
So I asked why:
- Was it about the title?
- The perceived power?
- The paycheck?
- The perception that it is an easier job?
She said they want to sit behind a big desk and sign things.
Instantly I visualized a “manager” sitting behind a big desk with their feet resting on the desk reading a newspaper. A clap of his hands and someone comes running with a hot beverage. A loud shout results in several people running into his office – varying ages, heights, and ethnicities – all cowering in fear. “Yes Boss…” (True story!)
In 1999 I read Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People for the first time. One of the stories in that book that captured my attention was about David Lilienthal, a man that was commissioned to head the new Atomic Energy Commission.
He brought together a very diverse bunch of influential individuals. And although they had a huge agenda and the press was pushing them for results he believed that efficiency was not the first priority – synergy was. So he wisely invested time facilitating relationship building, causing them to deeply understand each other’s history, goals, passions, and perspectives and transforming a group of individuals into a passionate team.
This is how Stephen Covey describes the result: “The respect among the members of the commission was so high that if there was disagreement, instead of opposition and defense, there was a genuine effort to understand. The attitude was, “If a person of your intelligence and competence and commitment disagrees with me, then there must be something to your disagreement that I don’t understand, and I need to understand it. You have a perspective, a frame of reference I need to look at.”
Not long ago I met with someone that was struggling because new team members were speaking up and contributing at a higher level than he was comfortable with. He had a bigger title, more experience, and a deeper understanding of the organization’s history. He trusts the detailed work that the founders of that organization did to set it up and feels like is his it responsibility to ensure that their guidelines are followed. The new team members either don’t know or don’t fully understand that history, but they have strong skills, great experience, a huge desire to serve and are unafraid to challenge the status quo.
It was good for me to hear this man’s perspective, as I am usually on the other side of that experience –Deeply believing that: