searching for “both-and”

el capitan riccardo-oliva-7_5D2sLtP3Q-unsplash

El Capitan, Yosemite National Park – Photo credit: Riccardo Oliva – Unsplash

The other day my team was considering options that could help our co-workers all around the world continue to grow in authentic and dynamic faith, endure and persevere in times of suffering, and learn and thrive in community. As I listened and evaluated the suggestions, all I could think to say was… “Yes. And yes. And yes. And yes”.

It turns out we could likely use all of those options. Each particular need might vary depending on the situation, the personality, the timing, etc., but realistically, so many of the ideas were helpful and valid and worth offering. We didn’t need to eliminate one for the other. If we implement a variety of options, it will benefit more people.

After spending several weeks heart-broken and discouraged by the vast, complex, emotionally-charged challenges facing our world today, reflecting on that exercise has given me some hope. 

I am reminded today that most things are not “either-or” situations.

We are not playing a zero-sum game.

One doesn’t have to lose for others to win. We achieve more when we find “win-win” options. There is undisputed power in teamwork and shared best practices and collaboration involving a diversity of opinions and experiences and skills. We are amazingly creative, innovative, capable, productive people – when we work together.

I watched two documentaries this weekend about Eliud Kipchoge, who has run a previously-considered-impossible sub-two-hour marathon time, and Alex Honnold, who free-solo-climbed (no ropes or protective gear!) the 3,000-foot El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Both incredibly inspirational triumphs of human accomplishment.

Although they achieved individual feats, neither of the two extraordinary athletes I learned about this week succeeded alone. They both had mentors, friends, and abundant input from others with unique ideas and specialties. 

Their stories have moved me from agonizingly searching for one correct answer or one side to join, to breathing more deeply and feeling more encouraged as I view possibilities from the “both-and” perspective.

I believe we can care for each other, find cures, and survive with resilience – if we learn with and from each other, rather than judging and attacking before listening. We can correct our mistakes, forgive each other, and find better solutions – if we do it together, rather than separating ourselves into rival camps who cannot speak to each other civilly.

Rather than arguing that one solution inevitably rules out another, I am beginning the search for how to answer with “Yes. And yes. And yes”. I am not looking for 100% agreement – we’ll never have that. We will most likely need many of the options presented and some still-unknown-to-us-today combinations or inventions.

I am working hard to listen respectfully to many differing opinions and push through the anger, disrespect, and unilateral demands to identify the valid, helpful elements of truth in each perspective. This is not easy to do. Putting aside my selfishness, self-defense, fears, and hurts to listen intentionally, admit my errors, and change is very difficult work, but I believe it is an essential effort.

I am praying that many other people will offer their willing, compassionate hearts and humble, teachable minds to work together for “both-and” solutions and hope. Maybe you are one of those people.

How do you sort through disparate ideas? What helps you discover “both-and” possibilities?

 

 

 

 

a heart in turmoil

rainy window saneej-kallingal-6EQYQewfOH0-unsplash

Photo credit: Saneej Kallingal on Unsplash

Many months ago, I felt the weight of the many divisions and verbal attacks I was seeing and hearing on my communications platforms. I wanted to create a resource to help us learn how to truly listen to each other, communicate well, seek understanding, respectfully accept differences, and embrace the diversity of ideas, opinions, cultures, and personalities that make up our beautiful world.

I never found the time or the emotional energy to pull it off – and then COVID hit, and we were all focused on surviving a pandemic. The timing did not seem right.

Recently, my heart has been shattered anew by vocal spokespersons unknown to me and dear beloved friends who have passionately been sharing their differing opinions in judgmental, polarized, and hurtful ways.

I am earnestly searching for truth and breakthrough, enduring answers to the heartbreaking loss of life, the systemic problems and injustices, and the lack of unity in our country and our world. I am searching my heart for sinful attitudes and complicity in those wrongs and sincerely listening to a multitude of voices who have experiences that differ from my own. I believe them, and my heart breaks at their pain. I am learning new ways to engage, advocate, and support those who need my help.

I am very concerned about responses that flippantly deny another’s reality, over-harsh reactions that are full of hate and violence, disrespectful and derogatory judgment of whole categories of people, commercial and political agendas that prefer to instigate people to damaging harm rather than encourage the deep, thoughtful, excruciatingly-hard-work conversations and reforms that would genuinely serve people, right wrongs, and improve and benefit our country and world.

There is no easy fix for our mess. There are no easy solutions.
Our past, present, and our future are full of broken people who do horrible things AND full of brave, compassionate people who help make things better. 

My heart longs for a community that comprehends our need to listen, communicate, and work together to benefit all. That humbly admits that we do not know everything, we are not always right, and willingly offers to learn, grow, and change. I am urgently seeking those people who acknowledge our need to ask for and offer forgiveness, who accept the messy and the uncomfortable and the awkward. And who will create and implement laws, policies, and processes that bring a safer, healthier, more just way of life for each person – all the while recognizing and sacrificially entering the immense complexity and the heart-wrenching agony of the process ahead.

More than anything, I think I am looking for love.

Love for and from all sides.

Love as the foundation of all we desire and desperately need to do.

Is it possible?

I do not always bring that myself. I want to.

Only my faith in supernatural, Jesus-empowered grace gives me strength and hope.

How is your heart in the middle of this mess?  How do you bring people together?

discomfort with diversity

diverse handsHow great is my committment to diversity? Do I give lip-service to the concept or do I live out my convictions with my attitudes and my actions?

I have been considering these challenging questions a lot in the past weeks, after reading two posts that tied diversity to discomfort. The basic premise explained that diversity will cause discomfort for me.

When I work, worship, or play with people who are different from me, they will present words, ideas and ways of doing things that are different from my personal preferences.

That might be more discussion or less than I like. More noise or less. Different music. Different flavors. Different values. More technology or less. More detail or less. Quiet work space or open collaboration. Different colors. Different styles. More emotion or less. More time together or more time alone. Spend more or spend less.

Because not everyone is like me,
if I am comfortable all the time, then others are not.

I work with diverse teams and with a great variety of people from all over the world. Each of my friends and each member of my family is different. If I truly want to invite, encourage, and empower the unique people around me, I must feel uncomfortable some of the time… and not just tolerate the discomfort, but really embrace it as a means to greater diversity.

  – gender – race – age – nationality – personality – religion – family background –
– economic class – political party – experience level – strengths and weaknesses –

All of these differences can cause discomfort and even conflict… but they are the source of rich diversity at home and at work.

diversity

Photo credit: estherase / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Instead of having a goal to make everyone happy; we could each willingly accept unhappiness some of the time, knowing that means someone different feels satisfied.

Rather than seek my own way, I am slowly learning to become more comfortable with my discomfort and celebrate – and even intentionally seek out – diversity that challenges me.

How do you react to situations that make you uncomfortable? What do you do to embrace diversity?

a place of community

Grandpa's cabin - courtesy of Sarah Joelle PhotographyI have just been blessed with a few days of family vacation time in the gorgeous Colorado mountains. My dad has a rustic cabin next to the Conejos River, and for many years the extended family (and some special friends) meet there to relax, fish, play games, and eat WAY TOO MUCH. It is a special time and provides sweet memories that last for the rest of the year.

Family get-togethers help me practice being grateful for varieties of talents and differences of opinions! Although we get along amazingly well even with the diversity represented at these gatherings, our personal preferences definitely surface…

  • Some like to talk while others want to sleep in the hammock
  • Some want to fish; others want to read on the porch
  • Some sing; others play games or do puzzles
  • Some enjoy “olympics” competitions; other a talent show 
  • Some shoot; others hike; some run trails
  • Some tell jokes; others laugh ’til they cry
  • Some sleep in late; others go to bed early
  • Some cook; others just eat… and eat… and eat

There is a lot of freedom at the cabin – not much judgement or criticism when we choose to do our own thing. There are usually plenty of people around for any activity, and there is plenty of space to find solitude too. Experts teach how to play guitar or fish or build something; those who think they are experts have a captive audience for their lectures.

We work hard to accommodate each other; bigger families get the bigger rooms, and showers get shortened (except by the teenagers) to save hot water. There is no agenda or schedule or routine. We share groceries, dinner prep, and clean up. We watch out for each other’s children and dogs – with only minimal complaining. It is a place of real community… and love.

Reflecting on that special time, I wonder why I don’t act like that more often… more at rest with time and more at peace with the people around me. Why can’t I judge less what others choose and enjoy more fully what I am doing? Why can’t I give up my space, comfort, and expectations without a negative attitude?

I am hoping this year that I don’t just remember the fun activities, but also the heart attitudes and the shared service that made it so much fun. I hope I can apply those principles not only to vacation, but to everyday life also.

What does your family enjoy together? What do you learn from those times?

what women add to a team

Business TeamDo you remember that awkward elementary school experience – two scrawny kids choosing the players for their team? There was always a tension between picking a friend because you liked them and picking a “star” because you wanted to win.

Whether it was a debate team or a football team, you needed a variety of players to cover offense and defense. Your choices didn’t always work out as planned. The thick glasses didn’t always guarantee intelligence any more than extra height ensured skill under the basket, but certain general characteristics proved to increase your chances for victory.

I firmly believe that men and women live and work best together in partnership, and I have experienced many times that the best teams are often diverse, not only in gender, but also in age, personality, strengths, and cultural background.

Earlier, I wrote about some of the challenges facing diversity, specifically gender diversity on leadership teams. I mentioned that more information can often facilitate positive change. Here are some ways that women’s participation makes teams healthier and stronger. I have also listed some articles below that support these three points. 

Men and women are like two feet—
they need each other to get ahead.
Helen E. Fisher

Women add integrity.

In my experience, the women on my teams consistently committed to maintaining a high standard of fiscal, legal, and labor integrity. When women participated on the teams, we implemented accountability systems, complied with necessary policies and laws, and quickly investigated decisions that appeared questionable. Financial partners, funding, and the organizational reputation for integrity increased as a result. When women participate on a team, there is great potential to build a strong ethical, moral, and integral foundation. 

Women strengthen collaboration.

On mixed teams, the team members rarely worked alone in siloed responsibilities. Instead, the women facilitated true teamwork by ensuring regular communication and interaction, systematic sharing of ideas, and fostering a healthy feedback culture. They promoted honest personal and productivity evaluations. The women were approachable, quick to ask clarifying questions, reciprocally helpful, and loyally supportive of team decisions. Mixed gender teams often led to better ideas, better decisions, and greater productivity and growth.

Women foster personal development.

The women I worked with prioritized personal and team development, often establishing strong mentoring relationships and coaching. They actively demonstrated concern for team member’s growth and well-being. The women readily participated in 360 evaluations, team building activities, and conflict resolution. They were good listeners, discerning, and keenly aware when alignment was missing. They were often very successful at recruiting, training and empowering their future replacements. Women leaders contribute to the effectiveness of a team’s leadership pipeline. 

I believe that great leadership ultimately depends on character, and that calling, competency and chemistry are also important for successful teamwork. Diverse teams do not ensure automatic success, but in our complex and constantly changing society, I am certain that they are one of our wisest recruiting strategies.

How have you seen women add to your teams?

McKinsey & Company. (2008). Female leadership, a competitive edge for the future. Paris, France.
Zenger, Jack and Folkman, Joseph. “Are women better leaders than men?” blogs.HBR.org. March 15 2012. Web. Jan. 26 2013.

why is diversity so hard?

studying togetherWhy is it so hard?

I often asked this question regarding my children when they couldn’t seem to get along. I have asked it about financial integrity, about exercise discipline, and about conflict resolution. These good goals seem to immediately attract excuses, emotional responses, and resistance as soon as we mention them.

Today, however, I ask it about men and women working together with mutual respect, equal opportunity, and sincere appreciation of the varied passions and strengths that both bring to the table.

Why is diversity so hard?

Why haven’t we been able to eliminate the disrespectful jokes and comments? Why don’t we apply the abundant literature that states how important it is to have gender diversity on teams and in leadership in order to increase the health and productivity of our organizations? Why do we continue to make excuses for antiquated policies and “old school” leaders that we know need to change? Why aren’t we willing to have honest and open discussions about moving beyond stereotypical criticisms and moving toward understanding, equity, flexibility, and progress?

I have actually been blessed to work in many situations and on many teams where men and women contributed and collaborated well together as unique individuals, valuing and appreciating variety in gender – as well as culture, age, experience, and expertise. Sadly, I have also worked in settings where people chose sides in constant battles for respect and opportunity.

I don’t believe there is any legitimate reason for such disparity and division between men and women. My faith tells me the root cause is our selfish sin…. thinking more highly of ourselves than we think of others, which leads to lack of respect, competition, insecurity and defensiveness. Maybe that is why this struggle is so entrenched and why it is so hard to defeat.

Although I get weary of the conflicts and I don’t have answers to all the questions, I think this challenge is worth fighting for – just like sibling love, balanced budgets, a strong body, and healthy relationships. Excuses, emotions, and resistance yield to information, open communication, and accountability for positive change. Offenses can transform into advocacy. I’d like to see grand-scale improvement, but many days I accept being content with small steps of progress. I start with changes in my life, and then I move to being an example for others. Maybe it will always be hard… but it can get better.

One day our descendants will think
it incredible that we paid so much attention to things
like the amount of melanin in our skin
or the shape of our eyes or our gender
instead of the unique identities of each of us
as complex human beings.
-Franklin Thomas

What do you do with hard situations? How do you bring about change?

moving towards advocacy

This past semester I learned a lot about cross-cultural leadership, and I gained greater appreciation for the benefit and blessing of diversity in ministry and teams. Our experience in Mexico has confirmed that multi-“cultural” teams (culture = age, gender, nationality, stage-of-life, experience, etc) are the most fruitful, both in terms of ministry goals and for personal character and emotional/spiritual growth.

I believe that the prayer needed, grace extended, and ego submission necessary for unity greatly outweighs the misunderstandings and time challenges involved in these “mixed” teams.  I believe that God blesses our efforts to overcome “cultural” barriers and work together for His glory.

This is especially true in the gender area – maybe because unity in this area is such a personal challenge, especially for families and husbands and wives. My professor encouraged me to further study the many issues surrounding women in leadership… and, although I was hesitant at first, I learned a lot. I am grateful for his “push”.  I do not want to enter a theological or cultural “battleground”, but I do want to actively pursue willingness to hear from God in this area.

I am convinced that our perspective and treatment of women has huge ramifications for our personal relationships, our fruitfulness as a ministry, and our participation in the battle against violence and human trafficking.  The chart below is a summary of some of my study. I offer it as a resource for prayerful consideration of your personal or organizational view of women.

Please let me know what you think. I have the sense that I am just scratching the surface of all that God would have me learn and do in this area. I’d love to learn from you also.

Moving Towards Advocacy-2What does God say to you as you review this chart?

What steps can you take to move towards advocacy?