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“One of the true tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.”

Arnold H. Glasgow

Why ARE we so stuck? This is a challenging time to be American. On the one hand people are talking about recurrent themes such as inequality, disrespect, violence, irresponsibility, greed, blaming, along with scarcity and fearful thinking and behaving that disheartens and separates us all.

Part of the reason I believe we are so stuck is that we go in and out of the same neuro-pathways in our brains whenever we face new or long-standing challenges. We have been conditioned to act in either over-powering or under-powering ways. We see this and on one hand fear being too permissive, or we fear being too harsh and coercive; either way we reluctantly line up behind one of those two options. And…that’s why we are so stuck.

There are third options and while they are comprehensive in terms of change, they are not rocket science. They challenge us, disquiet us, scare us, confuse us, because they require we give the same attention to emotional intelligence (self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness and relationship-management) as we have given to reading, writing and arithmetic and adopt best practice. Believe me, we have not done this and that’s the real problem. When a group is emotionally intelligent, here are some common things they all commit to doing:

    • Define and declare a meaningful purpose for what they will cause themselves and others (without this we are ships without a rudder or destination)

    • Establish and commit to making trustworthy relationships the second priority, including how to understand what builds and breaks trust, and tools so each person can diagnose and heal broken trust

    • Pick up (and also effectively hand off) responsibility for creating positive relationships, developing internal motivation, and supporting all to use power and initiative fully, consciously, and intentionally

    • Commit to supporting everyone in becoming wildly successful and authentic in teamwork

    • Refrain from trying to fix, change, convert and heal others but rather work on self-improvement only

    • Support exclusively the words and actions that help everyone have a secure sense of belonging and significance in which each feels empowered, lovable, connected and contributing

    • Learn powerful alternatives to influencing negative behavior that do not involve harshness, withdrawal and bribing (you may be thinking, “like what?”). Believe me; they exist.
    • Create a coaching community in which people all help one another regularly with encouragement and intentional structure aligned with purpose, values and personal responsibility

I ask you to consider this thought-provoking and highly important quote:

“Change blindness in the world of facts and knowledge is a problem. Sometimes we are exposed to new facts and simply filter them out. But more often we have to go out of our way in order to learn something new. Our blindness is not a failure to see the new fact; it’s a failure to see that the facts in our minds have the potential to be out-of-date at all.”

Samuel Arbesman, Author

If I asked, “are you using a 10 year old (or even 5 year old) phone or computer?” most would say, “No, of course not!” Yet, we hardly ever examine or upgrade our human systems, which matter the most.

Consider these questions in relation to how we construct our human systems in at work, homes and in schools:

  1. Have you been introduced to new facts (like the ideas above) but fail to let them move you (maybe even to curiosity or testing them out)?
  2. Do you fail to go out of your way to learn something new when you hear them?
  3. Have you considered that “facts” in your mind may be out-of-date or worse, root causes of our problems?

We are stuck, but we are also at an amazing crossroads in which we have the potential to shift in truly life-altering, strengthening ways. First, we must be willing to change; eager to learn. Are you? If you are, I’m here and would welcome bringing you new life and work systems that better assist you in teamwork, agility, collaboration and joy!

This article was published in the column Emotional Intelligence in The Women’s Journals, July/August 2018

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