I’m a hater.
Never really thought of myself like this but after responding, “I hate that,” to a number of family members and friends in recent days, I just need to admit — I’m a hater.
I embarrassed to admit but I’ve always harbored a little hate. I hate mushrooms. I hate moving my clocks forward to Daylight Savings Time every spring and then back to Standard Time ever fall. And I hate being late, especially to a movie and missing the previews.
Lately, though, I’ve been feeling a little more hateful than usual:
Of all my hatred, here are the three things I hate the most these days.
#3. I hate that we’re having crucial discussions in 280 characters.
We must have deep dialogue about racism in America. We need to discuss immigration, gay marriage, and free speech.
But we can’t do that through tweets and blogs. At least we can’t do it well.
And yes, I hate that I’m adding to these “shallow” conversations through my own blogs and tweets. My hope is these written words lead to spoken dialogue for many people.
We must push through the uncomfortableness of these discussions and start talking to people different than us. That’s what I did last year a couple of times with Elena Gerstmann. Elena and I are very different yet we were able to have a civil conversation about my political choices. Was it difficult? Yes. Was it uncomfortable at times? Absolutely!
Did we change each other's mind? Yes! We both realized that the other person is likable! We may not have changed our political stripes but we did enjoy the opportunity to learn from one another.
When was the last time you calmly had a discussion with someone who thinks differently than you?
#2. I hate the dishonest conversations we’re having.
As I continue my own journey into Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, I follow and learn from some great people on LinkedIn. Lenora Billings-Harris. Dr. Shirley Davis. Tara Jaye Frank. And many more.
I’m grateful for their DEI leadership and truly thankful for the opportunities they have given me to ask real, sensitive, and truth-seeking questions.
There are many times, though, when I’m silent, when I don’t seek the truth. While I’ve replied to many stories and posts on LinkedIn, there are many more comments I could make but don’t. I hesitate because my comments will be taken out of context, someone will read in a tone that isn’t there, or someone will accuse me of being defensive (which actually happened just recently!).
I’m extremely thankful for my conversations with Dr. James Pogue. We’ve had some wonderful discussions when I’ve asked him some very pointed questions from an old, white, male perspective. Questions that were not easy to ask with answers that were not always easy to hear. Some answers I readily accepted. Other answers I have to wrestle with some more. And a few answers I totally disagreed with.
But they were honest conversations.
Conversations that were enabled because we thought the best of each other. I didn’t have to hide or soften my comments and questions because James believed my heart was in the right place. And most of all, because James showed me grace when I said something wrong, pushed back on a statement, or admitted that I simply didn’t understand.
That’s where we must go as a society:
#1. I hate that some people reading this post will get the wrong idea about me.
That’s especially true if they stopped reading early in this post after they learned I voted for President Trump.
Over the last year or two, I’ve been called pollution and a terrorist. I’ve been compared to Hitler. I’ve collected so many verbatim quotes and tweets that I no longer collect them. I don’t think there’s an adjective or word combination that can be used to describe me that hasn’t been used already (on a positive note, there are some very creative writers out there!).
Sadly, the people labeling me with these names or making these comparisons don’t even know me. They simply call me these names based on one action — the little circle I colored in next to Donald Trump’s name.
These people don’t know what went into that vote. They don’t know how I think. They don’t know the struggle I had matching my civics worldview and my faith with a Presidential candidate that I sometimes disagreed with and often winced at when hearing or reading one of his bombastic comments.
These people who judge me for how I voted or a comment I make on LinkedIn also don’t know how hard I work to bring people together. That's the entire goal of my speaking and consulting business.
They also don’t know that I spent four years in Bulgaria leading a small English-speaking school so other Americans could work in the country. They don’t know that I paid for groceries for the person in front of me at Target recently. They don’t know how I recently donated blood, donated a Saturday to hand out Christmas gifts to those less fortunate, and donated a Sunday afternoon to sort food for a local food pantry. Would a terrorist do these things?
Bonus hate: I hate that we’re letting so many things divide us while ignoring all of the things that bind us.
Here is a partial list of things I love:
Finally, one of the things I love the most?
Writing about and delivering keynote presentations about the uniqueness of people and how we have so much more that connects us than separates us.
We need to talk about our differences. We need to talk about race, religion, gender, sexual preference, and politics. We need to explore and understand white privilege and unconscious bias. I want to understand a black man's or woman’s life and their perspective on racism. And I want to explain my life, my experiences and my feelings about white privilege without being called a racist just because it doesn’t match your definition of white privilege or because I have questions.
I’m working hard to do my part. I’m reading. I’m studying. I’m engaging in conversations with my black, Hispanic, Asian, gay, liberal, and Millennial friends.
I’m showing grace to people who yell at me, curse at me, and turn their back on me because of how I vote or how I think. And I’m asking for grace in return when I say something off the mark.
We are all together in this thing called life. How much better it is if we show each other love and offer a helping hand instead of shouting hate and shaking our fist.
Will you join me in this quest for civility and unity? Leave a comment with your thoughts about my thoughts. And if you’re in the Lewisville, TX, area, let me know and we’ll have one of those deep, meaningful conversations over a taco and margarita — my treat!
Recently I posted a short comment about making the world a better place through action. Of course, it's easy to tell others to take action. But it's just as easy to actually take that action! We have opportunities all around us if we're just willing to be observant.
For example, like many people, I've been working from home the last four or five months. And rather than wearing my normal business attire of a slightly starched button-down shirt and slacks, I've been wearing a polo shirt and gym shorts (admit it -- you're doing the same!).
After four months of working from home, I did have a few shirts that needed laundering so I dropped them off with Song, the woman -- along with her husband -- who has been taking care of my shirts and dry cleaning for years. She calls me "Mr. Ford" and regularly asks, "How is Mrs. Ford?" No need for a ticket because she knows me. I simply drop a pile of shirts on the counter and return several days later to pick them up. And if she sees me pulling up in the car, she has the shirts ready to go before I even walk through the door. It's almost become a game to see if I can sneak up on her!
When I went to pick up my five shirts a few days ago, I noticed Song's store was pretty empty. Upon a little digging, I discovered they are only doing cleaning two days a week. So I'm not the only person working in polos and shorts instead of business shirts and slacks.
Yet Song still keeps her store open every day but Sunday. "I have to be here for my customers." That's just part of her heart. "Yes, business is slow but at least I have a job. Many of our customers are out of work. It's so sad. But we are blessed." She and her husband are two of the nicest, kindest people I know.
So even though I'm still working from home, I'm again wearing that starched button down every day (and yes, I'm still wearing shorts). This way, I can visit Song and her husband regularly. Will it be enough to increase their cleaning operations to three or four days a week? Probably not. But it allows me to give them just a little extra business. More importantly, it allows me to honor Song's hard work over the years. And it brightens my day when I go visit her!
I don't tell this story to earn a gold star from anyone or prove I'm a good person. I'm truly just providing a simple example of how easy it is to help others, how we can make the world just a little bit kinder, one person, one interaction at a time.
Will you join me? How can you make the world a little bit brighter?
NOTE: I MAY LOSE ABOUT HALF OF YOU READERS IN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE CONTINUE READING TO THE END.
. . . because I voted for President Trump. I lie. I’m evil. I’m an SOB. And not only should I die but everyone around me should die also.
The most amazing part? The people calling me an evil SOB and clamoring for my death — they don’t even know me!
While scrolling through Twitter last week, I came across a tweet from a highly regarded HR influencer I follow. She made a simple, not-too-ugly (but not-too-nice either) comment about President Trump. That comment elicited three responses directed at all Trump supporters, including me.
Of course, the other side does it, too. When hanging out on Twitter, it doesn’t take long to see ugly comments and name-calling such as everyone on the Left loves China more than America and “Nancy Pelosi is a traitor.” I seriously doubt the person throwing out that gem knows Speaker Pelosi.
How did we let things get so bad, to the point where we hate everyone on the other end of the political spectrum, even to the point where we want them to contract Coronavirus and die?
I go into the office every day (well, the last few weeks I’ve stayed home and “Zoomed” into my office) and interact with teammates who have very different political ideas. I differ with other teammates on religion. And we all have different thoughts on culture, immigration, how to raise kids, and the best Mexican food in town.
We sometimes have deep, meaningful, and occasionally emotional and loud debates on these topics. Rarely are any minds changed but we do concede good points when presented.
And guess what? At the end of our sometimes heated discussion, we’re all still friends! How can that be?
We work together, respect each other, and, after the latest political debate, still laugh together because the following four characteristics light the path of our lives’ journeys:
Some people just don’t get this, I realize, and never will. In fact, the people who stopped reading this post after the first paragraph, even though at the outset I pleaded for them to stick with it, are probably calling me ugly names right now.
For most of us, though, if we’ll just adopt the four points above, perhaps we can all get along a little better, even to the point of having a meaningful conversation about some very important topics.
As for everyone on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn who thinks I’m a stupid, evil, SOB simply because I voted a certain way almost four years ago? How about connecting here on LI and let’s get to know each other.
You never know — you may just like me!
I love my wife. That’s one reason we’ve stayed married over 30 years. We love watching movies, traveling, and cooking together (she is most certainly the cook, I just stir when she tells me).
I also appreciate my wife. I appreciate the way she decorates the house and makes it feel “homey.” I appreciate how she keeps the house running by balancing our family finances. And I appreciate how she keeps me informed about family and friends by reading me Facebook posts.
And I value my wife. The thing I value most is how she makes me a better me. She keeps me looking good through her great sense of fashion, helps me find the right words to difficult conversations, and regularly offers advice on my speaking business. While I may not always treat her like the treasure she is, I value and cherish her beyond words.
So what’s the difference between the three? Is one more important than the other? Do I really need all three for a successful marriage? Let’s start this brief exploration with a few definitions:
Love: To have a profoundly tender, passionate affection for.
Appreciate: To be grateful or thankful for; to be fully conscious or aware of.
Value: Consider someone or something to be important or beneficial; have a high opinion of.
In simpler terms, love is about an emotional connection, appreciation is thankfulness, and value reflects importance and worth.
So, yes, for a successful marriage, I would say all three are needed. And it’s all three that helped Pat and me celebrate 31 years last November.
But what about the corporate world? Do leaders need these three characteristics to be effective? As in marriage, I would say yes.
Let’s start with love. Not to sound too soft or mushy, but I’m convinced that a love for people is required for positive, effective leadership. I’m not talking about a passionate love one has for a spouse or a child but a love based on friendship. Plato and Aristotle talked about philia love which is reflected in shared goodwill. It’s a love that wants to connect with people on a real basis and wants to see others succeed.
Next is appreciation which is about gratitude. Being thankful for the work a colleague or direct report does and for the results they bring to the team. Key here is actually expressing that thankfulness with words.
Which brings us to Value, an emotion or characteristic that is (sadly) rarely shared. Valuing teammates or direct reports is about acknowledging a person’s worth, their gifts, and how they make the team better.
This is especially true for people who are different from ourselves. For example, I’m a pretty loud person. And I’m funny — at least I think so. And if there was a team full of me’s, we would have a blast! It would be a constant party! Can’t promise how much work we’d accomplish but we’d have fun trying.
For me to be my best and for my team to be its best, I need someone on my team who is a little quieter and someone who is a little more serious. I need that person to tap me on the arm during a meeting and say, “Hey, let’s be serious for a minute.”
By that same token, the quiet person needs me, the person who craves conversation and banter. That quiet person needs me to say, “Hey, we’ve heard from everyone but you and your opinion is important. Let’s hear it.”
You see, together, that quiet, serious person makes me a better me. And the loud, lighthearted person I am can bring out some of the same in that quiet, serious person. And together, we’ll do great work!
I need that person! I value that person for how they challenge me and make me better. And how they make the team better!
I’m convinced leaders need all three emotions in order to build a high-performance team. Organizations can also have an impact on performance and engagement by building cultures that revolve around fostering relationships, recognition, and valuing people for the unique individuals they are.
But how? Can an organization really build a culture that revolves around these three critical characteristics? Absolutely! And we’ll explore that next month!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.