- Violence in Charlottesville.
- Climate Change impacts destroying property, wildlife, the environment.
- A growing divide between rich and poor.
- Discrimination, polarization and a rise in hatred.
- Globalism and the refugee crisis.
- Depressing levels of trust in government, media and big corporations.
- Addiction, substance abuse and family violence.
- Impacts of colonization on indigenous peoples.
- Burnout, stress and a lack of innovation inside companies.
Should I go on? The list is endless. All these challenges are facing us, and there are no easy solutions. But there is a different way.
The answer is inside each one of us.
To show up, to pull our heads out of the sand, out of our devices, off our couches and CHOOSE TO MAKE CHANGE. When we sit complacent or silent or talk only to those who agree with us or have the same views, we contribute to the challenges we face. When we choose to have a voice and use it for the collective good, we are part of action for change.
When we make a choice to be part of a brave, honest conversation about the tough challenges in our world we OPEN THE DOOR TO POSSIBILITY by talking to people who are different than us, who hold different values and views, who see the world through different eyes and have different experiences. You can’t change the world with your Facebook friends, but you might be able to change the world by opening your mind to different views so you can help find solutions that work for all of us.
When you choose to LET GO OF ASSUMPTIONS AND OPEN YOUR HEARTyou can engage with people you are thinking of right now as the enemy, or as wrong, or as evil. You can let go of your need to be right or to win, and recognize we inhabit one small planet, we all live here and its in all of our interests to solve the challenges that face us. There is no winning if some of us lose.
When you acknowledge your fear and discomfort and choose to STAY IN TOUGH CONVERSATIONS TO FIND A WAY FORWARD you embody courage and choose leadership over the mob. When you reach out to someone whose values are different than yours, who you are in conflict with and bravely say “Let’s talk.” you allow for a different future than the conflict trodden path we are walking now.
After 25 years working on high stakes, high emotion public engagement projects I was asked the other day why I’ve started a new company. These are my reasons.
The world needs a new kind of leader. Leaders who show up, stand up and bravely step forward to solve the problems we face.
The answer in solving the challenges we face in our homes, communities and organizations is not in the conversation between community or stakeholders and government or company. The answer is not in the dialogue about the project, or how we spend the budget better, or build the bridge or where we put the pipeline. When the project is over we go back to our couches and devices and the world is no better, and sometimes its a little worse.
After 25 years of public engagement I know the system is not working. Yes people have a right to a voice, and when decisions are made those decisions should reflect and consider that voice. Projects should gather the insight from a variety of voices in an inclusive way and people should have the information they need to participate meaningfully. However, in so many ways we are focusing our conversations on the easy stuff, the simple stuff. We’re mostly not talking together about hate crimes, racism, gun violence or the harm we’re causing the planet. We’re not teaching people to speak to each other with love, to reach out and seek connection and common ground and solution. In fact, we’re teaching people to demand what they want as the solution at all costs, and that the answer is in shouting about what they DON’T want, not what they DO want. We’ve eroded trust in government, decision-making and even the media now to the point that we don’t know which way to turn. I say “we” purposely because aren’t we the people who participate or choose instead to sit back and comment on Facebook, or protest and also demonize the other side, who are in the role of decision-maker but who check the box on gathering citizen, employee or stakeholder input so we can say we did and then do what we planned anyway? These are OUR communities and organizations and we need to choose differently.
It breaks my heart. And it moves me to tears. And it calls me to action to know I’ve got no choice but to be part of building something new and different, where we hold the really tough conversations bravely and honestly, with space for all of us, and we find solutions together.
We need a new way.
I’m inspired by so many beautiful leaders before me that call to a world of possibility where we come together to solve challenges together. Barack Obama tweeted this quote of Nelson Mandela’s on August 12th about the Charlottesville violence. 4.4 million people liked it and 1.7 million people retweeted it. It is the most popular tweet ever on twitter, and it gives me hope for the future.
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” ~Nelson Mandela
The answer is in each of us, in how we want to lead our lives, in how we want to show up, and in how we come together to address the challenges we face. The answer is in an army of brave leaders who choose hope, connection and possibility. The answer is in leaders willing to have brave conversations about the things that matter, conversations that create space for everyone not just the folks who agree with them.
Join me. Let’s talk. In our homes, communities and organizations. Let’s bravely lead our own lives, so we can lead where we work and live. Let’s step into the conflict and the challenges with open hearts, integrity and courage. Together we can find solutions to the challenges that face us. Because every change starts with a brave, honest conversation.