A Sense of Exclusion at an Inclusion Conference

What is it like to be different in a roomful of people who specialize in difference? One KJCG member found out recently—and her experience holds lessons about the work of inclusion and why it is so important. Before attending the Institute for Leading Diversity & Inclusion™—an event sponsored by Linkage, Inc., and held in Atlanta—participants were assigned to small learning groups based on their experience with the topic. Ideally, this grouping brings together people at similar levels of knowledge to match the right learning with the right individuals.

Sometimes, however, the result is less than ideal, as KJCG financial analyst Ruhama Eshete discovered.  Her specialty in finance put her in a different place from the other group members, all of whom worked in human resources. Nine of the 14 group members came from the same company, an equipment manufacturer. This was no one’s fault—the manufacturer sent a sizable delegation to the conference, which created logistical challenges for the group coordinators—but it did create dynamics that left Ruhama feeling excluded.

Just as the group members’ situations were vastly different, so were their challenges. Most were struggling to make change happen at all in their organizations. Ruhama, like everyone at KJCG, struggles to manage the change that happens every day—continually holding conversations about process, creating and revising Standard Work, and taking other steps to navigate the chaos and keep everyone aligned.

Moreover, the group spent a great deal of time talking about issues within the equipment company. This was hardly surprising, but it did little for the others in the room. “It reminded me of what it is like to be different, to be excluded from contributing my best thinking,” Ruhama noted.

Without a doubt, it also prevented the group from being the best it could have been. Ruhama found no place to contribute her street corner (or perspective) on various issues. As a result, the rest of the group members missed an opportunity to deepen their knowledge—to get closer to a 360-degree vision of diversity and inclusion and what they can do for organizational performance.

The fact that this exclusion was not intentional highlights another learning from KJCG’s inclusion work: the lack of awareness of people in the dominant (or “one-up”) group. For the individuals who worked at the equipment manufacturer, discussing their own problems may well have seemed utterly natural, “the way things are supposed to be”; it may never have occurred to them that others in the group might benefit from focusing elsewhere.

Exclusion can happen for many reasons. Overcoming it requires a change in mindset—a decision to join rather than judge, to broaden the scope of the conversation rather than restrict it to the predominant group’s concerns. As it turned out, the conference held valuable lessons about inclusion—delivered in an unexpected way.

Ruhama Eshete and John Backman contributed to this post.

Inclusion as the HOW®, Neighborhood by Neighborhood

When a neighborhood reaches out for help, the traditional approach is to start by inquiring about its needs—to ask, “What’s broken here?” When a neighborhood reaches out to Angela Blanchard, she asks entirely different questions: “What’s your story? Who are you connected to? What are your aspirations?” Blanchard has never heard of Inclusion as the HOW®.  Yet in her presentation—on a conference call sponsored by the Plexus Institute—we heard a compelling story of the power of inclusion to create profound change.

Blanchard heads Neighborhood Centers, Inc., whose 60 facilities in Houston and the Gulf Coast serve 340,000 clients every year with a range of programs, from education and immigration advocacy to senior services and tax preparation. As part of its mission, the agency works to build neighborhoods and communities by starting with what—and who—is there.  

Neighborhood Centers only goes where it is invited and starts with the requested project scope. In the process, however, the advocates who work for the agency dig deeper. “People might come to us, for instance, and say, ‘We need a community center,’” Blanchard said. “And we say, ‘Let’s start with building a community.’”

Much of what follows echoes our 12 Inclusive Behaviors. In the next step, the advocates listen as allies to the neighborhood’s residents: hearing their aspirations, paying attention to their stories, discovering what each resident can bring to the community. Eventually, the advocates link to the residents’ ideas, thoughts, and feelings by turning what they hear into the cornerstone of the community-building project.  In all phases, they strive to create a sense of safety for everyone involved.

Inevitably, the project entails bringing people together.  In one neighborhood, where education was a major issue, Neighborhood Centers convened a wide array of stakeholders: parents, children, case managers, teachers, and neighborhood center directors, in a bilingual setting so that everyone could contribute fully. “For many of them, this was the first time they had the chance to see one another’s humanity,” Blanchard noted. It is easy to imagine someone, in arranging this meeting, asking who else needed to be involved to understand the whole situation.

The most impressive echo of Inclusion as the HOW, however, lies in the results. Of the neighborhood mentioned above, Blanchard said, “Since we brought everyone together, we have noticed tighter bonds among these different players. Everyone is more aligned toward raising healthy kids.” They are, in the language of Inclusion as the HOW, working for the common good and shared success. Of her work generally, she noted, “As people start by seeing their connectedness, as the neighborhood aligns around its aspirations, the problems tend to recede into the background. There is nothing more powerful than a community in touch with its own aspirations.”

From this alignment and connection comes a tremendous surge of energy—very much like the energy released in Inclusion as the HOW organizations, when people are valued, heard, and seen.

Just as the presentation reflected elements of Inclusion as the HOW, so did our takeaways. We saw the potential for knowledge transfer, as several of us plan to take the lessons of this call into our volunteer efforts. Most important, we noted the potential of Inclusion as the HOW beyond the realm of our clients. Inclusion as the HOW has already transformed organizations. Imagine what it could do when unleashed on the world.

John Backman, Julie Bush, Monica Kurzejeski, and Ruhama Eshete contributed to this post. 

These Aren't Chipmunks We're Raising Here

Jan Jamison I recently spent two hours listening to a story—the story of an amazing child surviving some of the most terrifying of circumstances. Circumstances created by adults, survived by children. Sometimes.

As a child younger than 10, Rose Kahn not only survived the Holocaust, but was instrumental in helping her mother and father in ways that we today would not think a child capable: approaching Nazi soldiers to garner information, purchasing groceries in dangerous circumstances, finding a doctor for her ill father, making arrangements for his admittance to the hospital.

As I sat there listening to Rose Kahn (now, and for the last 59 years, Rose Westheimer), I couldn’t get out of my mind that although she stood before us as an accomplished woman, this story of horror happened to her when she was but a small, innocent child. At that moment it occurred to me: for the most part, children of today are discounted. 

Think about it. True, we love them dearly, we protect them, we “go to battle for them,” but would we entrust them with the responsibilities that our lives depended on? Would we ask them to do what this woman standing before us had been required to do when but a child?  When she was asked how she could accomplish such feats at such a young age, she answered simply by saying, “I just saw what needed to be done and did it.”

Could the children of the world today accomplish what this child did?  I believe they not only could, but do. We don’t like to think about it, but today there are children who are forced to accomplish many tasks that are unsuitable for their age. One or two of these children may live right down the street from you. She might be a five-year-old whose parent has to work and leaves her alone to babysit a still younger child. They might be siblings whose parents are passed out in a drunken stupor—but the baby needs milk, and so they go out at 11 p.m. to pick up milk. 

Children today, like children in all periods of history, are very resourceful and capable of great things. If you really want to find out what children can do, ask them. Challenge them. Give them the responsibility they deserve. Yes, they will make mistakes. They will also grow as a result.  

Now, when I think of Ms. Westheimer, I see this little girl, exhibiting no fear, doing what was in front of her. She had to know that people’s lives depended on her, and she did not flinch. I cannot get this picture out of my mind.  

I pray that our children never have to face the terrors Ms. Westheimer and so many like her had to face. Still, we aren’t raising chipmunks here. We’re raising children—capable, resourceful people who can do far more than we might think. And I know that down deep within the hearts and abilities of our children today still rests the will and determination of those children so many years ago. We are in good hands.

Are You a Disruptive Hero?

Monica E. Biggs That's the question that  Bill Jensen, whose book Hacking Work: Breaking Stupid Rules for Smart Results was named one of the Breakthrough Ideas for 2010 by the Harvard Business Review, asked 40 of us who gathered in Lake George, New York, for the 94th Silver Bay Leadership Conference.  Bill has spent the past year or so interviewing 100 of these disruptive heroes around the world. According to his website (where you can watch the video interviews), he considers them:

Disruptive because they are proving conventional wisdom wrong

Heroes because they are changing the rules of the game, for the better

Great because they helped to change us all for the better

Each interview starts with the question "What makes you ...you?" The answers are varied and inspiring. He has talked with people like:

  • Cinda Boomershine, a self-described eternal optimist. Cinda heads one of the fastest-growing handbag and accessories companies, which profitably makes all its products in the United States. 
  • Caterina Fake, cofounder of Flickr, one of the most popular photo management and sharing applications. As a child, Caterina refused to take direction and insisted on doing things her own way.
  • Marco De Rossi, founder of OilProject, an Italian-based online school where all the classes are free and all the teachers are volunteers. Marco was so nearsighted as a child that he was more comfortable in front of a computer screen than on a soccer field, so he began programming when he was five years old.

Out of these amazing interviews, Bill pulled 20 lessons that can serve as a primer for aspiring disruptive heroes. I daresay that everyone in every organization should be leaning into these lessons if we are to do our best work. (Among other activities during the session, Bill asked us to pick out the lesson that scared us most. More than one of them freaked me out!) Here are a few of them:

  • Everyone must become a triage master. Read the situation quickly and take decisive action.
  • Everyone must be aggressive with their ideas and beliefs. Audacity matters.
  • Everyone must fail more, fail faster.  Test, fail, iterate, iterate, iterate, iterate.
  • Everyone must embrace revolutionary change.  Tinkering and managing are necessary but insufficient. 
  • Everyone must embrace endless cycles of complexity.
  • Everyone must constantly simplify. Everyone who works is in the business of friction reduction (a.k.a. reducing waste).
  • Everyone must put themselves on the line. Accountability for everything matters.
  • Everyone must let go of their “pets.“ Your favorite project/product/service is being disrupted.  You must be the one to declare it dead and build a new one.
  • Everyone must have a mentor half their age. Those causing the biggest disruptions are (at least) half your age. 
  • Everyone must leap before the net appears. Security and safety nets are gone forever.
  • Everyone must pay it forward. We are all dependent on our community.
  • No one should accept tools that don't put a ding in the universe. Many work tools and structures suck (a lot).
  • No one should worry about what others think. Be you.  Always push in the direction of who you really are.  Don't apologize for that. 

Bill closed with a parting provocation: "YOUR job is being reinvented NOW by somebody in the world, so what are you going to do to thrive in a world where disruptive change is an everyday event?" That kept most of the group buzzing well into the evening!

*In an email with me, Bill asked me to note that his ideas in this blog represent preliminary findings and are subject to change.

An "Inclusive" Difficult Conversation

“We need to tell him to shape up, or his time here could be over soon!” That was the one-line outcome of a discussion I had just completed with a manager about a colleague’s behavior. This colleague was indeed under the scanner. His choice of words was usually not the wisest. He had got into trouble a number of times before. The patience of those who worked with him seemed to be running low. I decided to have a conversation with him the day after. I wondered what approach I should take in the discussion. Could I communicate to him that his behavior was bordering on unacceptable while still ensuring my conduct was inclusive? I was walking uncharted territory here.

To prepare for the conversation, I looked again at the sheet titled “Inclusion Is and Is Not” from the Be BIG workshop I attended several months ago. Some of the statements from the sheet stayed with me. I decided:

  • I should hear his side of the story.  He should be given a chance to share why he had behaved the way he did. It was necessary to allow input from the people affected.
  • I should clearly call out the implications if he were not to change his behavior. By doing so, I might be supporting him in doing his best work in the future. At the same time I would not have focused on the relationship to the degree that the task was less important or secondary.

I was now clear on the approach I should take. There was a way to make him feel included in a process which in all possibility would be uncomfortable for him.

We had a one-hour discussion the day after. Did I manage to convince him to change his behavior? Yes! Was his behavior change sustained? Over the past month, I have seen him sustain his improved behavior. Was I surprised? Yes, I was. Previous efforts at making him change had not yielded results. I had been forewarned I was taking on a tough case. 

Why did my approach work? I feel it worked because I was firm yet inclusive.

Sometimes a “difficult to get along with” colleague needs to experience inclusion before being able to practice inclusion. In this case, I helped him experience inclusion—even though it was a do-or-die situation!

The Inclusive Workplace and the Power of Flow

I must have been staring at the ceiling. My mind was working on translating a difficult and obscure diagram into an article for KJCG, and the effort required some serious reflection. Just at that moment, one of our senior leaders walked across the room (a “café” with open floor plan, sofa, and tables) and remarked that I looked contemplative. I showed her the diagram—and she had an idea about it. I ended up integrating her idea into the next draft.

A few days later, I sat at one café table while our president, Corey Jamison, sat behind me, briefing someone relatively new to the Firm on coordinating her very first session. Corey was listing a few resources that this person might need. Something she said reminded me of a blog post I’d written not long ago, so I mentioned it to her. It provided yet one more piece of background to help our new colleague prepare for the session.

Neither of these serendipities would have happened without our open floor plan. In our new offices, few people have their own space—and even those with their own space often work in our shared spaces anyway. Most of us sit in different places, with different people, from day to day; in the process, we find out a bit more about our colleagues and what they do.

The point here is not so much the floor plan itself as what it creates in our organization: flow.

Fred Miller talks a lot about flow as a competitive advantage for today’s organizations. A key objective of inclusion is to create such a flow. When people are included, when their “street corners” (perspectives) are heard and valued, when they come together in new and different combinations to address situations, they learn to speak up and listen to one another as allies. They transfer knowledge and street corners across their traditional silos. As a result, knowledge, insight, and energy begin to flow freely across the organization. The full capacity of all the organization’s people is unleashed, resulting in accelerated results and higher performance.

I’m not the only one who has experienced this flow in our new offices. Our project manager recently needed to meet with a colleague. In our former, traditional offices, she would have entered her colleague’s office, feeling like an invader in a private space, and asked for 10 minutes to meet. In the new open plan, she simply sat down alongside her colleague and continued to work on her own for a while. At some point the conversation began to flow, and she brought up the issue she needed to discuss.

You don’t need an open floor plan to create flow. In our case, however, the floor plan is both a symbol and a facilitator of flow. The flow, in turn, is making us a higher-performing Firm. It can do the same for any organization.

Stories and Street Corners: Lessons from the Conference on LGBT Equality

As a mother, lesbian, black/native American woman, religious science minister, performer, coach, and writer, I brought my share of “street corners” to the 24th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change. In the process, I glimpsed just how many more street corners are out there—and the sheer power of inclusion to bring them to the fore. First, I should explain the notion of street corners. When a traffic accident takes place at a busy intersection, everything happens so fast that no one person can say what happened for sure. To figure it out, the police interview people on all four street corners of the accident scene; from those interviews, they piece together a 360-degree picture of what happened. When explaining KJCG’s Four Corners Breakthrough, we encourage organizations to ask people for their street corners—their view of the situation—to gain a 360-degree picture as well.

This year’s Creating Change was the first ever to include a “lobby day” on Capitol Hill. On the bus into D.C. for lobby day, I sat alongside a vast diversity of people: youth still in college, young professionals, boomers like me, nonprofit community leaders, people of many genders and colors and faith traditions, those with long years in lobbying and those with no experience at all. Behind every person was her or his unique street corner; behind every street corner was the story that had shaped it.

That was where the power lay in our band of 300 lobbyists. During the training for lobby day, we heard how important our individual stories are to our cause: they give officials who support us examples to bolster their positions, and they educate—even persuade—those who can’t see the urgency of our requests. The more that people hear these stories, the more they understand the issues, and the more likely they are to lend their support.

One street corner on LGBT issues, one set of messages coming from one group of movement leaders, loses impact over time. Three hundred street corners make an impression that lasts.

And there were more street corners at Creating Change than anyone could count. Nearly 3,000 people attended the event in all, and it seemed like twice that many. Immersed in this environment of thousands of people, I saw the leaders of leather nation, Indian nations, the state department, corporations, and myriad faith traditions all under the same roof for the same reason. We were all present to exchange street corners, knowledge, and strategies. Out of those exchanges would come new initiatives, new ways of thinking, fresh energy.

There was a reason the conference was such a success. People shared themselves because they felt safe. People felt safe because they felt included—truly, radically included. The meeting floors had entirely gender-neutral restrooms. There were hospitality suites for different ethnicities, religions, physical abilities, and gender identities and expressions. There was a room for prayer and for meditation, a Shabbat service, a Muslim Friday prayer, the calling of the names of those we have lost. If anyone wants to know what true inclusion looks like, this was the place to be.

My heart and mind are full.  Seeing the “better angels of our nature” in nearly 3,000 people is beyond inspiring. Talking and sharing and working with them sheds a shining light on what is possible for our future—when we include all people and listen to all street corners.  That is the power of a new, more expansive, more robust WE to create the change we need.

The Two Qs and the Paradox of Differences

What if we—especially those of us who identify with the LGBTQ community—thought of our orientations and expressions as a gift?

Michael Adee discussed this question and others during his presentation at our recent consultants’ meeting. The director of More Light Presbyterians (an organization that seeks to make the Presbyterian Church more inclusive), Michael affirmed that our orientations and expressions are gifts and should be shared with others—that love in any form should only bring us together, not drive us apart.  Unfortunately, in many cases, the direct opposite is the case: people who identify with the LGBTQ community often feel judged at best and hated at worst. In such a difficult environment, how do we go about sharing this gift and embracing the gifts of others in return?

Michael suggested that we enlist the help of everyone, not just those who share our orientation. And “everyone” includes more differences around sexuality and gender than we might think. In a society that often wants to separate sexuality into two categories—gay or heterosexual, female or male—we may forget that there are actually many varieties of orientation. In order to share our differences and see them as a positive step toward a more inclusive social structure, we need to both recognize those varieties and see our similarities as well.

The Paradox of Differences provides a framework for doing so.[i] It consists of three levels:

  1. We are like all people. As human beings we share universal physiological needs: oxygen, food, water, shelter. At the same time, we want to love and be loved, to be safe, etc.
  2. We are like some people. We share culture and experience. Some of us are women, some have pets, some love to read, some have traveled to Africa.
  3. We are like no other people. All of us are unique individuals, different in at least some way from every other person on the planet. Each of us, for example, has a unique thumbprint, a unique genetic code, a unique collection of preferences, fears, hopes, and aspirations.

When we hold all three statements simultaneously, it allows us to see one another as people and to explore our differences. We can break down the artificial barriers between “us” and “them.” Rather than stay in one of these realities, such as “we are like no other people,” we bridge the gap between them.

In terms of sexual and gender orientation, a couple of words help us bridge this gap. Once a pejorative term, queer now covers a whole spectrum of orientations—making even more people “like some other people” and thus opening the door to those who do not fit one category precisely. However, the door really opens wide with the inclusion of a “second Q”: questioning. This can mean anything in terms of sexual and gender identification and does not specifically indicate gay, heterosexual, or otherwise. Anyone who has wondered about her or his orientation can relate to this.

Questioning opens the door to others by establishing common ground and linkages among much larger numbers of people. This then provides a foundation for discussing our differences, and our own uniqueness, within and outside of the LGBTQQ community. In this way, more people are better able to relate to each other and the lines of communication can start to grow.


[i] This concept appeared in Frederick A. Miller, “The Paradox of Differences and the Illusion of Sameness,” HREOnline (the online site of Human Resource Executive), 31 October 2011. The article was based on an original concept noted in Clyde Kluckhohn and Henry A. Murray, eds., Personality: In Nature, Society, and Culture (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948).

Allies Are Not Accessories

Corey L. Jamison and Judith H. Katz

 

At one point, in their continuing efforts to transform the Presbyterian Church (USA) into a welcoming place for the LGBT community, Michael Adee and his colleagues in More Light Presbyterians made a watershed decision: to open the movement to include not only people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered, but allies as well—heterosexuals who are actively supportive of a church that embraces LGBT members.

“We had to change our thinking and our language around this,” Michael said during his presentation at KJCG’s December meeting. “We became not just LGBT, but pro-LGBT [i.e., with both LGBT and heterosexual allies united in a common cause]. It was an acknowledgment that allies are not just accessories.”

This is a difficult decision to make—not just for More Light Presbyterians, but for any movement that seeks to confront privilege and create full inclusion for a “one-down” identity group. Over the past 50 years, many of these movements have excluded potential allies for a variety of reasons: mistrust of the motives of allies in the “one-up” group, fear that people in the one-up group would co-opt the movement, concern that reliance on one-up allies would simply reinforce traditional power inequities.

There is reason for this concern. Our systems and institutions favor one-up groups (and reinforce “one-upness”) because they were created by one-up groups. Individuals who are part of one-down groups have lived with this reality—systems that work for others and not for themselves—every day of their lives. They know that admitting allies from one-up groups can easily lead to ceding the initiative to one-up groups. No wonder they are wary.

Yet as More Light Presbyterians found out, allies are integral to success—and can play a key but differentiated role in change. By joining with the core group, they create strength in numbers. Their commitment to the movement can infuse it with fresh energy. Their street corners can inform the movement without reshaping it—adding depth of thought and breadth of vision that push the movement further toward its goals. And as a one-up group, allies may have access to privilege that can be leveraged for change, provided that the strategies to do so are co-owned (and guided) by the one-down group.

How can people in the one-up and one-down groups partner on important causes?

  • Individuals in the one-down group can recall (and draw on the fact) that they too have one-up elements to their identity. A heterosexual African American man, for instance, experiences being one-down based on his race, and one-up based on his gender and sexual orientation.
  • Both groups must carefully assess the types of power each group has, and how each needs to leverage that power for change.
  • Once aware of the power dynamics, people in the one-up group must proceed mindfully—listening as allies to those in the one-down group and following their lead in creating change. That may mean occasionally leading from the front, or it may mean standing behind those who have been oppressed.

Allies are not accessories. Movements for full inclusion can advance their mission by welcoming them as important contributors. At the same time, allies can be most effective when they provide support that truly advances the mission and strategies of the movement.

Have you been an ally recently? In what way? What can you do today to be a strong ally to LGBT people?

 

BEING BIG!

Sourav Banerjee, Mumbai, India Editor’s note: On 8-10 June, the renowned Esalen Institute will host Judith Katz and Fred Miller as they present Be BIG: Step Up, Step Out, Be Bold—in Leadership and in Life (details and registration here). One of our frequent guest bloggers, Sourav Banerjee, attended the recent Be BIG session in Mumbai, India; here he shares how it has made a difference in his work life over the past few months.  

I’ve had changes in work responsibilities in the last few months. I am managing new and different kinds of workgroups and have taken over some responsibilities on a much broader scale. In the midst of all this change, I’ve been trying to consciously apply learnings from the Be BIG workshop I attended several months ago.

Over the last week, I’ve been wondering, “What learnings from the Be BIG workshop have become a part of me—things which I do unconsciously now?” To answer these questions, I had to revisit my experiences at work over the last few months.

***

Around January, I started handling new workgroups. I laid out a plan to get a pulse of the health of HR processes in these workgroups. My first step was to identify and dialogue with different stakeholders, asking each stakeholder the same set of questions to identify focus areas.  After identifying the focus areas, I asked each stakeholder for her or his perspective on the relevant area. In hindsight, I realized I was trying to understand the health of HR processes from “all the four corners.” The Four Corners Breakthrough characterized my approach.

***

How important can a calendar be? Well, very important! Especially when you start realizing that your calendar always seems to be packed. Recently, I have been getting meeting invites all the time. I spent a month of being in this meeting frenzy. Soon I realized:

  • I was allotting no/minimal time to think about things I was doing.
  • I was being invited to some meetings it was not “necessary” for me to attend.
  • The agenda items for some meetings could have been achieved through emails too.

I have been consciously working on keeping aside thinking time for my job. Till now, I’ve been successful in keeping aside half a day in a week. And now, whenever I get a meeting invite, I ask myself, “Is this meeting required? If yes, am I required for this meeting?” If the answer to either question is a no, I politely decline the meeting request. In doing so, I am asking the questions that are part of Right People, Right Work, Right Time, which eliminates the waste of attending meetings that are outside my purview or expertise.

***

One of the takeaways I had from reading The Nibble Theory and the Kernel of Power was that all of us can Be BIG together.  Usually at the workplace we focus on Being BIG ourselves but don’t consciously enable others to Be BIG too. Well, I’ve consciously worked on how I can make those I work with Be BIG. I feel I have made considerable progress in this area. Frankly, the workplace feels much more fun this way.

It is also very different. I come from a culture where it’s considered a virtue to be “conservative” and “consensus-oriented.” Consequently, in past, I sometimes held myself back from Being BIG at work. Over the last few months, I’ve tried to be humble but yet show up fully at work. This has included putting my point forward respectfully but strongly whenever I have had a differing point of view.

***

How do I support people to do their best work? Am I ensuring I am not putting others in a box? These two questions have stayed with me perennially since November. I have found a way which helps me to answer both questions successfully: I try “checking in” with people whenever I meet them every day. I try understanding “what’s happening in their part of the world.” When I come across people who are becoming a bottleneck to a project I am working on, I try to understand their current priorities and how I could help them in getting work done. I’m experiencing “checking in” to be a powerful tool for building strong relationships.

***

Last but not least, I have practiced “go slow to go fast” to build speed in relationships. I remember the Speed, Trust, and Interaction model Judith and Fred talked about in the Be BIG workshop. Speed in relationships is an outcome of trust. Trust in relationships is an outcome of interactions. I have been particular in ensuring regular and quality interactions between my stakeholders and me.  Over the last few months, I’ve seen trust levels go up, and subsequently speed in our interactions has picked up too.

These are some important ways I have integrated, over the last half year, concepts I learned at the Be BIG workshop into my life.

Handles on Unopened Doors

There are times in our lives when we don’t have many choices.  When we are children our parents choose what we eat, where we go, what time we go to bed, what we are exposed to, and at what point we start to put our first foot down onto the ground of the grown-up world.  As children, we feel as if this lasts forever, though it is truly only a finite period of time, just a snapshot in our photo albums.

As we move through our lives, second to minute to hour of every day – we choose.  Choice is something we practice every day, like breathing. There are varying degrees of what we are choosing, when and how, but we are choosing.  We choose to get out of bed at some point, we choose a destination, we choose to say hello and we choose to say goodbye.  Every time a part of our bodies moves, we have made a choice.

We don’t think about those choices every day. They are automatic.  For all of us, however, there are bigger choices that we need to make.  These choices are not always easy. They aren’t the fun decisions we get to make – these are the choices that shape who we are at our core as well as how we appear outwardly to the world.  There are consequences to these decisions, and therefore they require energy, thought, and time – all the things in short supply for all of us.

Because of our limited resources, some of those choices start to get packed away in the closets of our day. And just like everything else in our closets – well, my closet at least – we forget that those choices are there, that they are ours and they belong only to us. We pile feelings about and around those choices like the winter coats we put away for the summer.  The weight of all the other stuff we pack in there makes it hard to see the choices that are now all the way in the back, and they seem to have disappeared.  We close the closet door and go on with our day.

Days turn into weeks, even years, and at some point you will be revisited by the circumstances that first brought you to the choice you did NOT make – the one you put away, covered up, and closed the door on.  The one that is now heavy with old feelings, which now feels as though it doesn’t exist.  It is easy (well, much easier) to say, “I did not or do not have that choice; that choice is not mine.” It is harder to put your hand on the doorknob of that closed door,  to unearth what you have buried, to look at all the stuff that you loaded on top of it, and to see that your choice was – as it always was – there all the time.

What choices are you choosing not to make? What handles are waiting to be turned to open doors that have been closed?  We have an opportunity every day to choose. No matter what the choice is, we have it.   There is truly only one person who can get in your way – and it is you.  Big choices are hard and making them can be very difficult.  But if you don’t make them – if you don’t take that opportunity to choose – it does not mean that the choice was not available. It means that you chose not to take it.

Safe Enough for Feedback

The feedback was coming from all sides—most of it negative, much of it intense. It was more than I could process. At one point I backed my chair into a small corner of the room, a sort of instinctive response to limit the impact.

That’s when I discovered the glass wall.

T-groups are famous for the feedback they provide to people. In fact they’re all about feedback: with no set agenda or purpose, participants spend several days giving one another candid input about the effectiveness—or ineffectiveness—of their behaviors.

While this kind of feedback is invaluable, it can also be difficult, even painful, to receive. It leaves us in a vulnerable position. And when it comes fast and furious, from every person in the room—as it came at me during the T-group—it can overwhelm and wound rather than help.

What I needed, as my retreat into the corner symbolized, was a safe space.

I visualized this safe space as a metaphorical glass wall between me and those who were giving the feedback. The point was not to shut them out completely—a brick wall would work for that—but rather to deflect the intensity of their input so I could look at it clearly. Behind the glass wall, I felt safe enough to consider the wisdom of their input, filter the helpful from the unhelpful, and explore how I might best apply it to create positive change in myself.

This is why, in our 12 Inclusive Behaviors, we emphasize the need to create a sense of safety for yourself and your team members. Becoming an Inclusion as the HOW® organization, like taking part in a T-group, is all about creating change—sometimes massive change—and change leaves people feeling vulnerable. In creating a sense of safety for myself via this glass wall, I was enabling myself ultimately to be more open to the change. I could actively absorb the input and improve in this important area of my life.

Any change effort demands that we be honest with ourselves. But we can only be honest with ourselves when we feel safe.  How do you gain the sense of safety you need?

 

Living in the Connection Age

Our ancestors lived through the Stone Age and the Bronze Age, the Agricultural Age and the Industrial Age. And now?

No one seems to know what to call the times in which we are living. Many people use Information Age, but that seems outdated. True, dealing with information is still a large part of the virtual world—searching for it, filtering it, selecting the useful bits, and making sense of it are essential functions for living and working. But what we do after that is the key to survival and success for individuals and organizations in the coming years.

What we do after that is connect. Increasingly, in an age of information overload, it takes collections of individuals with differing areas of expertise working together to figure out how their disparate bits of information can fit together to advance the work and mission of the organization. Fortunately, the same technology that gave us instant access to information has also given us access to one another.

Almost without realizing it, we have been undergoing a Connection Revolution. We are living in the Connection Age.

Identifying the nature of this new age is important because a new age requires new mindsets as a matter of survival. They enable us to adapt and live effectively. When people stay with the mindsets of the previous age—or, worse, insist on applying them to the reality of the new age—decline inevitably sets in. Societies that did not shift their thinking from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age were left behind, irrelevant to the advance of the human race. The same happened with those who clung to the Agricultural Age and did not adapt to the Industrial Age.

Are We There Yet?

The evidence for this new Connection Age is unmistakable. Facebook now gets more daily page views than Google. Mobile technology keeps us in continual contact with one another. Virtually everyone between the ages of 16 and 25—in the United States and many other countries—sends text messages and has a Facebook account.

Connection has permeated every aspect of our culture, online and offline. The most effective way to succeed in business—to get a job, recruit clients, or find partners—is through networking, whether via LinkedIn or face to face at a Chamber of Commerce dinner. Forty years ago, children were ordered to “do their own work” in school; now they are encouraged to get help from any source that can help them, including classmates and Wikipedia. Engineers work continually in teams throughout the product development cycle. In short, people are expanding their knowledge and opportunities by establishing and expanding connections.

We are also expanding our social networks. Through the Internet and social media, each of us is in touch with more people than any human being in previous generations ever was. And we know more about the private lives of politicians, celebrities, and those experiencing 15 minutes (now often 15 seconds!) of fame through YouTube, blogs, and TV.

But How Well Do We   Actually Connect?

Ironically, the connectedness of the Connection Age has also spawned its opposite: in an always-on world, many people are feeling more isolated than ever. When we can connect via email and Facebook and Skype, we generally will connect in those ways, often at the expense of the “human touch” that comes from voice-to-voice or face-to-face engagement.

The connections we make are not always ideal. Emails and social media messages can easily be misinterpreted because they do not convey the nonverbal cues—the facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language—that help us determine what others are trying to communicate. In many cases the misinterpretation can make people feel small or excluded, which isolates them further.

Today’s organizations are steeped in these realities. Advances in technology enable teams to co-create with their counterparts around the globe. At the same time, an overreliance on email and online workspaces has led to many people’s spending entire days in front of their screens, sending texts, IMs, and emails to someone two desks away.  This isolation can breed mistrust, and mistrust prevents individuals and teams from doing their best work together.  Misinterpreted messages only exacerbate the effect.

Like every other period of history, the Connection Age has its benefits and drawbacks, its opportunities and threats.  The time to embrace new, Connection Age mindsets, in all their human and technological facets, has come. The challenge is how long it will take for the new mindsets to take hold—and we learn to gain all the advantages of this new Connection Age.

 

Inclusion: An Event, a Process, or a Mindset?

I have been trying to practice the 12 Inclusive Behaviors for the last few weeks. During this time, a question I have grappled with is “What do these Inclusive Behaviors tell me? If I were to practice these behaviors at work, would it mean that I have created an inclusive workplace? In short, what is inclusion—an event, a process, or something else?”

Inclusion is certainly not an event. Visualize a manager at the workplace making an announcement: “February is the inclusion month for this year. In February we will ensure everyone feels acknowledged and included for what they have done.” This turns inclusion into a “program of the month.” When the next customer order or project milestone comes up, “programs of the month” get put aside.  Event-based approaches are clearly ill suited for creating inclusion.

So is inclusion a process, or the outcome of a process? If we were to ensure the 12 Inclusive Behaviors were exhibited at the workplace in a certain order/algorithm/manner, would we have an inclusive workplace? Can you think of a successful cultural change initiative which happened only because a certain process was followed repeatedly? I can’t think of any!

A few days ago, while reflecting through my notes from the Be BIG workshop, I came across this statement: “Inclusion is a Mindset”!

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online defines mindset as “a mental attitude or inclination; a fixed state of mind.” A “mental attitude or inclination” influences/determines behavior. Hence changing the “mental attitudes or inclinations” makes it easier to change behaviors; then we practice the new behaviors until they permeate our way of living. At that point, we live them out involuntarily.

The idea of “process” evokes images of conscious attempt. A team can start practicing Inclusive Behaviors through a conscious process.  But the challenge lies in making inclusion a mindset at the workplace. When this mindset takes hold, and the behaviors are practiced long enough, we exhibit them as involuntarily and naturally as walking when we want to move or breathing every minute of our lives. It is at that point that we have created an inclusive workplace!

-Sourav Banerjee

Mumbai, India

The Help: A Harmful Fairy Tale

The Help has certainly garnered its share of attention and awards. Many critics, including some highly respected reviewers, have unreservedly praised the film. The performances of Viola Davis and others mesmerized many moviegoers and are indeed outstanding. Some people have complained about the trite and oversimplified plot—that it is more fairy tale than history but these comments often get lost among the raves and award mentions.

 I agree that it is a fairy tale. More than that, it is a harmful fairy tale.

As in many movies with historical settings, it is easy to be seduced into thinking that the plot at least echoes the actual history.  That is what makes The Help harmful. For African Americans living in Mississippi and elsewhere in the South during the early 1960s, “history as it actually happened” was an unending sequence of terror and violence. Perceived—let alone actual—offenses against white people most often had disastrous and life-ending consequences. (From 1882 through 1968, Mississippi experienced the most lynchings of any state in the Union.)

Consider one of the film’s most important scenes. When Minny, a domestic worker, served up a pie full of excrement to the most vicious of the white women, she lost her job. If she actually had served up such a pie during that time, there is a very high probability that  she would have lost her life, family members would have lost theirs, or—at a minimum—she would have been “taught a lesson” more severe than job displacement.

In an era that produced the brutal assassinations of Medgar Evers (a Civil Rights activist in Mississippi, who was killed in 1963) and many others, are we so naïve as to believe that losing one’s job would be the ultimate penalty for offending a white employer in such a manner?  And while Medgar Evers’ death was mentioned in the film, it seems strange that its impact on the African American characters was largely ignored. The true story, of course, would not make an award-winning Hollywood movie, but instead an R-rated film full of lynchings, constant fear, and brutal beatings. That would be shameful as opposed to celebratory, and shameful doesn’t sell in Hollywood!

Also missing from the movie version of The Help (it was addressed in the book) is the rape of African American women by the “master” of the house. Why was that left out? In the film, the worst indignity involves the unwillingness of some white women to give their African American domestic workers—who cleaned for them, cooked for them, and cared for their children—permission to use their toilets. This is indeed a fairy tale version of what life was really like for those women.

In this context—with its pervasive fear, the constant threat of brutality, and the justified resentment it engendered—it is nearly inconceivable that African American women who worked as domestic workers in the early sixties would “rise up” to tell their stories to a white writer, even if it was someone they knew. They would have been putting their lives and their families in harm’s way. True, many brave African Americans did put their lives and families on the line to gain their civil rights (with the support of some white allies), and The Help does give us snapshots of the women’s fear of talking about their experiences. Ultimately, though, that fear—like most of the realities of that time—is downplayed.

Why does this matter? Because this false rewrite of history provides a false sense of what happened in the United States. By making the U.S. and Mississippi look better than they were at the time, the film joins a movement that is already too much in abundance: glossing over or erasing the true description of the plight of people who have been oppressed by systems that are still impacting millions today.

The movie’s conclusion leaves viewers content with the sense that the system of white privilege has been breached: that “the help” are the victors. As such, it obscures two facts that are critical for us to understand if we are to appreciate and advance the cause of dialogue about race. First, the struggle for civil rights went on far longer (indeed, it still goes on) and was far more perilous than the early 1960s as portrayed in The Help. Second, what The Help tells us is that we still live in a society that wants to underplay the role and impact of racism. Clearly, we have a long way to go.

Meeting Norms That Make Us BIG

 It was the morning of the first day of the Be BIG workshop at Mumbai.  I had weaved my way through the heavy morning traffic to make it just in time for the workshop. I walked into the room, saw more than a dozen unfamiliar but smiling faces, exchanged a few introductions, and sat down at my seat.  I was happy and excited to be there but was also apprehensive and struggling with my concentration.

Soon Judith Katz and Fred Miller started the workshop.  It was the beginning of a two-day journey of learning, practicing, and experiencing Be BIG behaviours.

In this post I wish to relate some of the things Judith and Fred did at the start of the workshop—things which enabled inclusion for myself and others over the next two days. In the process I learnt what I could do differently at work.

Fred started the meeting with a Moment for Focus exercise. He wanted us to take a minute to think about why we were there in the workshop, what we would contribute, and what we hoped to take away.

The ring of a hand-operated bell signalled us to start. I closed my eyes. Initially the silence was discomforting. There were a myriad of thoughts on my mind. I was trying to think about the workshop but other thoughts were intruding in—thoughts around what I needed to do at work next week and some stuff at home I needed to complete over the weekend. I struggled my way through and finally did manage to come out with why I was there in the workshop.

I wanted to understand:

  • What interactions make me BIG/small?
  • What interactions make my colleagues BIG/small?
  • What interactions make teams BIG/small? Why do some teams seem to be high-performing and integrated while others are not? What could we do as HR managers to create high-performing and integrated teams?

Fred rang the bell again after about a minute to bring our focus back to the group, and we shared our thoughts with others. As I heard others share their expectations and I shared my expectations, I became clearer about why I was there.

Next we did a Hello exercise. We went around the room, shook each other’s hands, and acknowledged each other’s presence.  By the end of all the Hellos I felt warm towards my co-participants—people who 10 minutes back were strangers to me. There was this sense of inter-connections among this diverse group of people (managers, entrepreneurs, social workers, etc.).

We didn’t stop at this. Fred next asked all of us to “check in.” We talked about how we were feeling as a human being today. I reflected on my state of mind for the day and shared my state with others. I heard about my co-participants’ states of mind and could consequently understand when and how much they wanted to participate.

Later some of us shared a few Safety Stories. These were narratives of safety procedures that appealed to us, often wrapped around a personal experience with the procedures. I realized that people have different level of needs for physical, emotional, and psychological safety. I also sensed that when people feel safe they bring their best to work.

So why do I mention the Moment for Focus, the Hello exercise, checking in, and Safety Stories? These helped me during the workshop and have left me with questions I hope to answer at work.

Knowing why I was in the workshop enabled me to actively listen, participate, and create action plans over the two days. I was no longer a passive recipient of information but actively fulfilling my input needs.  By the end of the two days I had concrete action plans in place—plans about what I wanted to do differently at work.

Knowing why others were there in the workshop enabled me to actively listen to their points of view and support them in meeting their goals.

Saying Hellos, checking in, and sharing Safety Stories ensured that I built connections with others in the room, became aware of our needs around safety, and understood where they (and I) were coming from each day.

At work we have multiple meetings in a day. We attend meetings we are invited to. We invite others for meetings and call in a wide range of stakeholders to ensure buy-in. We facilitate meetings. But when do we pause to reflect why we are there or why we are calling someone for a meeting? Even if we do expectation setting at the start of a meeting, do we create a space where people can focus their thoughts before they speak?

We need to start meetings with a Moment for Focus. Think of a team moving from a two-hour operational review meeting straight into a strategic planning meeting. We are asking them to undergo a significant shift in time application and thought process. Starting the strategic planning meeting with a Moment for Focus enables all the participants to see why they are there and how they would contribute.

I personally found the bell to be helpful. I associate the sound of the bell with temples: you ring the bell before you pray and you ring it again after you have finished praying. I associate praying with focusing my thoughts. Hence ringing the bell makes it so much easier for me to focus thoughts, irrespective of how hectic a day I am having.

Our need for these other practices is just as important. We often talk of teamwork: how a good team functions in such a way that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. How does that happen until and unless we feel connections amongst each other? These connections need to be built every time we meet. We might be working with each other, but do we know how even our best buddy at work is feeling today? Saying Hellos and checking in sets us up for practicing Inclusive Behaviours in our interactions. Feeling safe and making others feel safe ensures a level playing ground where everyone can come in and contribute.

I believe that these four activities—part of what Judith and Fred call the Inclusive Meeting Norms—can make a critical difference in the way we work together. That in turn can increase the performance of our team and even our whole organization. My goal now is to put these norms to work for us, and I hope this blog post will help you do the same.

- Sourav Banerjee

Mumbai, India

 

Emerging Entrepreneurs and Recycled Ideas

Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur these days, or at least it seems that way. Lately, however, I’ve been thinking about the pitfalls of entrepreneurship—as well as the lack of breakthrough ideas, the pace of business today, and how it all fits together. This came up for me at several events I attended recently. During the Women: Inspiration & Enterprise Symposium, many of the motivational speakers said roughly the same thing: know what you want, love what you do, stay in control of your vision, use fear as motivation, take care of yourself, trust your gut. This is great advice for emerging entrepreneurs who have never heard it before. But for everyone else, it was review—nothing particularly new or fresh or bold. A second event on entrepreneurship, held locally, felt the same way: it covered basic topics like how to start your own business and how to find capital.

These events happened right around the passing of Steve Jobs, and the timing had me reflecting about ideas new and old. I remember thinking: What now? Who’s going to step up with the next big idea? Is there enough visionary ability out there to produce something new?

I want to seek out the next big idea in my own work. Because everything in business moves so fast, it’s easy, as a graphic designer, to simply recycle old ideas and get them out the door. But how do I find that next big idea? What does it take to do outstanding work? The first step, for me at least, is to slow down—to relax, look at others’ new ideas, play with new ideas of my own. This is why I signed up for an art class: to get the time to recharge and renew my thinking. Otherwise everything becomes a blur.

In our ultra-fast world, are there enough people slowing down often enough to keep the flow of ideas moving? This is especially important for entrepreneurs, whose entire future depends on the “wow” level of their ideas.

Then there is the question of who should be involved. At KJCG, we constantly talk about the Four Corners Breakthrough: the idea of bringing together everyone connected with an issue—people of different roles, functions, levels, experiences, backgrounds, etc.—to get a 360-degree vision of the situation. That often results in better ideas and solutions. It may even be true, as Fred Miller wrote last year, that the larger the crowd, the greater the chance of its arriving at a breakthrough.

On the other hand, some of my best ideas come when I’m alone and have a minute to think for myself. Entrepreneurs often work alone as well, or maybe with a couple of partners. Maybe the bottom line here is to ask ourselves is how we arrive at the best thinking to accelerate our success.

Entrepreneurship is a good thing. But entrepreneurship needs great ideas. In fact, our world needs great ideas—a lot of them. If we slow down enough, and position ourselves (alone or with others) to do our best thinking, maybe we can generate the breakthroughs we need.

Technology and the Cherish Factor

A close friend had some great news to share recently. I found out about it on Facebook.

I like social media. It’s valuable for entertainment purposes, staying in touch with far-flung friends and family, and improving certain elements of work. We can share daily details from our lives, swap funny stories, and make an observation or two.

But I think we’re getting carried away—by sharing way too much that is way too personal.  I have seen people announce the engagements of other people online. People fight and couples break up on Facebook. I have seen pregnant friends post sonograms of their fetus for the whole world to see.

You might not think that’s a particularly big deal. As I said, Facebook is valuable for sharing the details of our lives. But in sharing too much, I believe we’re losing something I call “the cherish factor”: the deep intimacy of sharing and cherishing the most important events in our lives with the most important people in our lives.

When my close friend recently got engaged, for instance, I wanted her to tell me privately. I wanted an intimate moment to celebrate together and cherish this wonderful news. Moments like this enrich our relationships and deepen our bonds. Because I read her news on Facebook, however, that moment of cherishing never had the chance to take place.

The cherish factor goes beyond big news as well. Imagine a night at home with your family: few experiences are more important to cherish and savor. Already, though, we have allowed technology to penetrate those sacred times. An intimate dinner or a walk in the woods with one’s children is so easily disrupted by the ring of a cell phone. Our iPhones chatter, our email distracts us, each of us watches her or his own TV. This will only become more of a challenge as advances in technology provide more ways to reach us.

It’s hard to set boundaries when the technology makes us so accessible, because people’s expectations change with technological advances. What if you don’t respond right away? Will people feel less valued because you’re not responding? Will they worry about your well-being?

There’s another issue here as well: I think we can talk about new technology in terms of addiction. The experience of the iPad and other gadgets is addictive in itself; so is the need we feel to be reachable at all times. We get sucked in before we know it.

Still, while setting boundaries is difficult, I think we have to do it. We need to respect the face-to-face, human interaction that allows us to cherish one another. We need a separation of technology and “real life.” Where we draw that line will depend on our individual circumstances, and that’s OK. But we must make a point of making the choice. Only then can we preserve and protect the cherishable parts of our lives—the parts that make us more deeply human.

 

Paying Attention—and Discovering New Partnerships

It is a small world after all. That makes the people in it—and the partnerships we build with them—incredibly important. If we foster those partnerships with care, they might spark all kinds of opportunities to make a difference. Too often, however, we pay no attention to people around us. In the process, those opportunities are lost.

Have you ever walked past people with your head down, looking at your BlackBerry? Perhaps it was a particularly crazy day, with meeting booked on top of meeting, and you simply “didn’t have time to talk.” It happens to all of us. But what if the people you walked past are the exact people who, in collaborating with you, could co-create positive change in your workplace? What if they have a perspective that, when combined with yours, could lead to an entirely new level of performance? That collaboration could transform the course of your organization. The impact could be so great.

You are never going to know everything about the people who are in and around your life. On occasion, you literally can’t stop to talk at length. But if you take the minute to engage in a short conversation with them—even if it’s just hello—you open the door for a potential partnership. From there, the possibilities of what the two of you could do together are endless.

This isn’t just about the people you see every day, either. Keeping in touch with old friends, college professors, and peers, checking in with past colleagues and business partners…you never know where one of these encounters may lead.  So take a breath, look up, and connect. The world is small, and you may see—and need—those people again.

By Victoria Gammerman and Julie Bush

Lessons from the Theater

It’s not like they were attacking her, it’s like they were degrading her because she was different. They felt like it was no big deal. I didn’t think the play would go there. They went way too far, and it was way too easy for them.   With all the turmoil going on in the play, I felt that the detective mediated everything. He wasn’t for one side or the other, but he treated everybody the same, because they were all hoodlums.

I loved the Spanish in the play, because I could understand all of it. We live in a world where we speak so many languages, and it’s good to be able to understand.

They fell in love, just like everyone else. Back then, it was a man and a woman, one Latina and one Anglo. Now we’re talking gay marriage. They were the innovators of unconventional marriage.

When Anita kept saying, “But we’re in America,” it reminded me of growing up here. My mom wanted to keep the Colombian traditions and I would say, “But Mom, we’re in America.” Back then, I wanted to do everything my American friends were doing. Now I understand where my mom was coming from.

Both the play and our sessions take planning, training, execution, and a lot of behind-the-scenes effort. The passion with which the actors act is similar to the passion that people in the Firm have around their work.

It hurt to watch Anita become small during the play. At first she was all about relishing her new life in America.  She saw America as big, and she wanted to Be BIG in it. And yet, by the end of the play, circumstances left her singing “stick to your own kind”—a very small idea.

When did you know that “the play” in question was West Side Story?

You might not have recognized it at first. If you’ve seen it, chances are that you view it in a certain way and believe it’s about certain themes. Some of the thoughts above probably startled you.

They startled me. That is why, for me, seeing West Side Story with our Troy office was—more than anything else—about a Four Corners Breakthrough.

Four Corners Breakthrough has become a foundational idea at KJCG. Named after the police procedure of interviewing witnesses from every street corner of an accident scene, this approach brings together people with a broad range of differences and perspectives to convey their knowledge and ideas. By sharing information across departments, shifts, functions, sites, levels in the organization, and other differences, organizations can gain a 360-degree view of every issue and situation, enabling more breakthroughs and better decisions.

We didn’t have to make any decisions about West Side Story. But as I spoke with four people who attended the performance at Proctors in Schenectady—Julie Bush, Kamen Miller, Lixa Santana, and Tanya Zgorzelski, four people with differences of color, gender, skills, life experience, even familiarity with West Side Story —the differences in their perspectives allowed me to see the play with fresh eyes. More than that, they enriched my understanding not only of West Side Story but of our Firm: the values we hold to, the work we do, the way we do it. As a result, I can better align my work with the work of the Firm.  

Imagine if the play were an issue in our organization, and we needed to resolve it. How much closer to a breakthrough would we be, having heard all these perspectives?

That is the essence of Four Corners Breakthrough.  It is one thing to write about. It is quite another to have it happen around you—and feel its transformative power firsthand.

 

 

Note: This post would not have been possible without the insights and contributions of four people at KJCG: Julie Bush, Kamen Miller, Lixa Santana, and Tanya Zgorzelski. Thank you, one and all, for adding your street corners—and making the experience of West Side Story richer.