"Hey, how are you?" Many of us have muttered these words as we pass someone by, not waiting long enough to hear the response. We have a meeting to get to or a class to attend. We are thinking about what we just experienced in the past or what lies ahead in our future plans without pausing to embrace the present moment. And while we may acknowledge the physical presence of someone, we find ourselves bypassing the human connection.
Over the past several months, I have been facilitating leadership development and management training programs for individuals of all stages in their career and from multiple cities. I have been spending at least one-third of the program on self-reflection activities that have participants consider who the major influencers are in their lives, which values drive their decisions and actions, what the defining moments have been that have contributed to who they are today, and how they leverage their strengths at work.
After completing these activities and sharing some of their responses with fellow participants in the room, I pause and ask them to reflect on whether they have shared their values, influencers, defining moments and strengths with their colleagues at work. Close to 90 percent of the participants have not shared these personal reflections with co-workers, which I found surprising considering that, according to Globoforce, "78 percent of people who work 30 to 50 hours a week spend more time with co-workers than with their families."
"Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day," writes Brene Brown. "It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen." It can be scary and uncomfortable showing up with 100 percent of our true authentic selves, but it can also create a sense of freedom in our minds in that we no longer feel the pressure to conform or pretend to be someone, something that we are not. We fear too much and live too little in the comfort of our own skin.
Ian Wallace shares a critical question for us all to consider: "Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?"
There is a vulnerability that exists when we open ourselves up to others' judgements and critiques. There is also an opportunity to broaden our perspective or the perspective of others. We can respect that each of us has walked a different path in our lives, and while some of our steps have been similar, there are many different experiences that contribute to our individual human story. My story is not and will not be greater than your story and vice versa; our stories are beautifully unique.
I believe it is critical in building relationships and communities that we do not try to outshine the hardships that someone else has experienced, but rather, we acknowledge the diversity of experiences that humans encounter and focus on supporting each other in our quest to be the best version of ourselves. Every day in every place around the world, humans are passing one another by and interacting with each other without fully knowing or understanding what each human is facing in their lives. I often teach in my programs the iceberg theory in regards to human relations; what lies at the surface does not compare to the depth of our character, experiences and emotions that lie below. Our human experience is both flawed and full of potential.
Sir Ken Robinson states, "The real role of leadership... should not be command and control... the real role of leadership is climate control, creating a climate of possibility."
It is clear that our country, our world is divided on so many issues and lacking the leadership necessary to foster and sustain a "climate of possibility." From racial divides to opposing religious views, political plays to gender gaps, and economic hardships to foreign policy disputes, most of us have the desire for change and the advancement of peace and equity. There is, however, a gap between our desire for change and the action necessary to surface that change.
Rooted in that gap is the call for all of us to focus our energy on building relationships with one another that are grounded in both compassion and empathy. As we learn to walk in each other's shoes and acknowledge our human experience, bypassing the initial quest to trump one another, we will build trust with each other. That trust enables us to disagree on the issues while not attacking each other, and it gives us the opportunity to find common ground upon which we can advance together a "climate of possibility."
It is in the "climate of possibility" that we co-create that we acknowledge and learn from our past, advance equity and equality to shape our future and embrace our authenticity today. Our human experience is one marked by joy and sadness, laughter and tears, anger and celebration. Desmond Tutu explains, "My humanity is bound up in yours for we can only be human together. We are different precisely in order to realize our need for one another."