In the Quest to be Better, the Key to “We” is Me

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Last week was a big week. Not only did my team host an event probing deeply into questions and issues surrounding divisiveness in our society, we did so during a week in which it reared its ugly head on a national stage. The Michael Cohen hearing was the ultimate manifestation of divisiveness, at least in a political realm.

What most affected me from that day were Representative Elijah Cumming’s closing words. The Chairman of the House Oversight Committee ended the hearing demonstrating empathy for Cohen, while at the same time rallying him, and frankly all of us, to be better – for the sake of our democracy, and for the world we’ll be passing on to the next generation. His emotion-filled words rang true when I first heard them, and they remain with me to this day. They were a high point in what was otherwise – no matter what your political posture – a dark day for America.

While the timing was unforeseen, our event, Dialogues on the Future of Leadership: Bridging the Divide provided an opportunity for leaders in attendance to deeply and pragmatically examine their beliefs through inquiry and mine them for unconscious bias. Educator and TED speaker Eldra Jackson provided moving testimony about his 24 years in the California state prison system and his journey of self-awareness, which allowed him to confront the “toxic masculinity” belief system that shaped him as a young man. In the most vulnerable situation imaginable, Eldra used inquiry to boldly confront and ultimately transform his life. His inspirational story is a powerful reminder that by overcoming our limiting beliefs, we can break down the invisible bars creating divisiveness in our world.

As leaders, it would be hard to come away from this workshop on inquiry – much less, the Cohen hearing – without considering the various ways that we can do better. In reflecting on this call to action, I have gotten clear on three areas where I personally can and will focus.

Listening – I commit to slowing it down in my interactions with others and doing a better job of noticing where I am listening from. Is it from a place of judgment…or one of openness and willingness to alter my perspective? Are the beliefs behind my judgments really true…or am I allowing an old “story” I have created about someone to limit my ability to truly hear and integrate their perspective? Sometimes simply noticing my thinking creates a shift.

Honesty – I can do better in examining more deeply my own motivations. Where am I committed to “looking good and being right” at the expense of the relationships and results I really want to cultivate in my life?

Accountability – I can remind myself that I am accountable for my experience in every situation. As Elijah Cummings shared with Michael Cohen, pausing to question why something might be happening FOR us rather than TO us can make all the difference. For me, this is a poignant reminder that the world around me truly does unfold as a result of my actions, inactions, and interpretations. When I view myself as integral, I can change the world. When I perceive myself to be a victim to circumstances, I cede that power.

I’m writing this as a declaration in a world where we must do better, and I’m going to start with me.

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