I know — it’s been a l-o-n-g time since I’ve posted a blog. Not because I don’t have something to say — that’s never a problem! It’s simply been a lack of time. Okay, perhaps more like a lack of time management.
But the need is still there. The need to connect people, particularly employees in the workplace.
One would think that connecting employees and D&I in general would be getting easier. After all, Corporate America is certainly spending the money! A couple of years ago, a SHRM study reported diversity-department budgets at Fortune 1000 firms averaged about $1.5 million per year (it was a wide range, from $30k up to $5 million!). My guess is that average is even higher now.
But what do we have to show for all that spent money? Maybe some of us are a little more aware of our unconscious biases?
During most of my current keynote presentations, I ask the audience if we’re more divided now than ever and virtually every hand shoots into the air. Race, politics, MASKS! Everyone has an opinion and we’re having trouble expressing that opinion with civility!
I think the solution is in our minds. We can all learn about Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging but until we BELIEVE in it, not much will change. Actually, it’s not belief in DEIB, it’s belief in people. It’s a mindset that people are great and everyone has something to offer.
I wrote a blog last year that focused on inspirational people quotes. Sayings that focus on the uniqueness of people and how each one of us is special in our own way. That blog offers lots of wisdom but for me, one quote stands out:
"As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has – or ever will have – something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression."
Do those words inspire you as they do me? Do they challenge you to look at others as special and unique? I hope so!
Those words certainly challenge me to see the best in others. They also inspire me to work even harder at building cultures where people are valued. I'm inspired to help people connect to each other, particularly people who see life differently, and help them work through their differences in a civil manner.
So I'll continue my culture and people work throughout this year: keynote presentations, training workshops, emceeing corporate events, moderating panels, conducting culture studies. I'll also write a lot, tweet a lot, and drop in a few videos here and there.
And maybe, just maybe — when I ask people at the end of 2022 if they think the world is as uncivil as ever, just a few less hands will shoot up.
I’m here to help! I deliver keynotes, develop and deliver training workshops, moderate
panels, and emcee/facilitate Town Halls and other corporate and employee events. If
you’d like to explore ideas to build a Value Others Culture, please don’t hesitate to contact me!
We’re not getting along.
Whether it’s politics, race, religion, culture, immigration, gay marriage, current events, BLM, or just about any other topic you can name, we all have a differing opinion.
Our opinions are based on what we know (or what we think we know) and what we believe. Those beliefs are formed over a lifetime of experiences (we explored our complicated selves in a couple of recent blogs — click here to see "I Am My Life - Part 1") and delivered in a way that reflects our personality, some softly with others being very loud about their opinions.
We’re often letting those opinions be known in pubic spaces, on TV and radio, at church, and during family gatherings. Probably the largest platform for airing our viewpoints is social media including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter, which can be over the top with emotional and often ugly comments.
Those over-the-top social media comments are just a small part of the incivility we’re seeing today. In fact, most people would agree that incivility has never been higher.
I don’t mean the rioting that plagued many cities in 2020 although that is certainly a reflection of our disagreements.
I’m talking about the inability to engage in meaningful dialogue about the issues we’re facing as a nation. We simply can’t seem to have real, honest, uncomfortable conversations that can either help change someone’s mind or at least help people gain an understanding of others and grow in empathy for people who are different.
So how do we overcome this standoff? How do we stop yelling at each other and start talking to each other? When will we stop calling each other names and start calling each other brother and sister and friend?
I think we’ll do this when business starts facilitating those difficult conversations.
We tend to hang with “people like us.” That’s certainly true with family. Yes, today’s political climate has driven a wedge between some family members. For the most part, though, family sticks together.
Our friends tend to look and think like us as well. That describes my friends. I have a close group of six or seven guys that I hang with, drink bourbon with, and generally do life with. Our wives are all friends so we also do things as couples.
Many churches look the same as well. I live in Lewisville, Texas, a North Dallas suburb and while my church is open to anyone and proactively reaches out to the Hispanic community, it’s still a predominately white church.
Then there’s business. Business is different. While our family and social groups are often a reflection of ourselves, business usually has a different look and feel.
Business is comprised of people from all walks of life. In addition to different genders and generations, employees also represent different ethnicities, different sexual preferences, different educations, different backgrounds, different political beliefs, and different thinking styles. The differences go on and on and on and . . .
Yes, families, friends, and social groups can be a melting pot of different people, but it’s business that truly brings dissimilar people together.
It’s Too Hot
So business has the opportunity — some would say responsibility — to help lower the temperature of our personal interactions and, ultimately, our society.
“Lower the temperature.” That’s a great term, isn’t it? I wish I had come up with that but I must give credit to a fantastic professional speaker, Michael Hoffman (click here to learn more about Michael). Michael expertly applies that term to organizations that want to deliver great customer service.
I don’t think Michael would mind if I adopted that term to describe our current culture, which is red hot, and how companies can cool things down a bit by helping employees understand each other and talk — calmly — to one another.
I’m not the only person who proposes business take the lead here. At a Ken Blanchard conference in 2018, I heard author Brené Brown urge companies to facilitate those uncomfortable conversations within the workforce in order to attract and keep the best employees. So business has a vested interest in facilitating those challenging conversations; it’s a real business advantage!
That’s my goal with this blog and with everything I do; my raison d’être. I want to help people find success and gratification in their daily activities by helping employees understand each other and get along. I want to “lower the temperature” in corporate cultures.
So "Getting Along" will be my theme for the rest of 2021. Throughout the year, we’ll explore Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion. We’ll dive into one of my keynote presentations about Building a Value-Others Culture. We’ll touch on civility, challenging conversations, and how to interact with people who are different than ourselves.
I hope you’ll follow along throughout the year. And I really hope you’ll interact, provide comments, ask questions, push back (just a little), and challenge me.
And hopefully, with each blog, comment, and story, the pebbles we throw into the “pond of life” will create ripples that benefit others, ultimately making our businesses more engaging and satisfying.
And making life just a little bit easier.
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?
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.