Friday, May 18, 2012

Taboo Topics

"So, tell me about the thoughtful conversations you have had with your group around sex and  sexuality."

Silence...  "Well, it does come up now and then.  But typically, someone gets uncomfortable and cracks a joke.  And, that's about the end of it."

It seems to me that there are a number of topics that many groups agree to avoid.  They don't come out and speak their agreement, but the agreement exists nonetheless.  Sex.  Specifics of money. Religion and faith.  All areas where there is likely to be diversity of thoughts, values, and judgments and so we avoid.  We don't want to be the odd one out.  We don't want to challenge the dominant cultural view.  So we stick to safer topics.

If it works for you, keep it.  If it's not working though, there may be another way.

Let's talk about talking about it.  Whatever "it" might be, we can follow a series of questions that pave the way for a meaningful discussion and concrete action.
  • "What would be the risk of having a conversation about ____?"
  • "Is it worth the risks in order to gain greater satisfaction, understanding, or connection in this area of our lives?"
  • "What are the longheld beliefs that might be in play as we engage in this conversation?"  "Where did those beliefs come from?"  "Are they still relevant?"  "What beliefs  are we willing to challenge or forego?"
Assessing the risks and making a conscious choice to engage increases the levels of safety for all involved.  It allows us to keep our feet on the ground and our fears in check.  It promotes our ability to show up with candor and authenticity.  And, that's all good.



Monday, May 14, 2012

“It’s going to be perfect!”

The perfect event.  The perfect relationship.  The perfect retreat.  In past chapters of life it might have been the perfect budget, the perfect plan, the perfect staff team.  In the stories I make up ahead of time, EVERYTHING is going to be perfect.  I am world-class at creating an idealized future reality.  I think it’s been that way my whole life...  With zen-like ease I will pose the perfect question and have the perfect response.  My partner will do exactly what I think should be done and the group will respond with just the right perspective and glean just the right learning.  The team will continually optimize performance and achieve stellar success. There will be confetti parades and I will bow gracefully with just the perfect mix of humility and confidence. 

And, God help anyone around me when my scene of idealized perfection begins to crack and become the inarguably imperfect human reality.  Just ask my kids.  Or former co-workers or subordinates.  They’ll let you know that when faced with something less than the idealized perfect outcome, I can be surly, snappy, and even a bit salty.   Ouch.

How’s that working for you, Vince?  Well, it stopped working for me a long time ago.

The “driving-to-be-perfect” part has in fact produced some remarkable results throughout my life… revenue growth and capital expansion, early promotion to the executive ranks, recognition and affirmation by professional associations and peer groups.  There is a very positive side to this part of me and I owe it much of my current sense of security and freedom.  And, given the state of things in the formative years of my life, I can see how this “driving-to-be-perfect” part of me helped create a life that was far outside of the family norm.  I appreciate this part of me.

And, it’s gotten me into a fair amount of trouble… distancing and loss of intimacy in personal relationships, unfair dumping on unsuspecting kids, colleagues, and subordinates, internal angst and fear that has spilled out on myself and others…  Yuck.

What to do you want to have happen?

It seems that the challenge of mid-life has been about accepting both the perfect and imperfect parts of me.  It’s been about recognizing that there is both good and bad in all of us, and in just about every situation, and that’s the way life is.  It’s what we do with the good and bad that defines our character.  And, the action I might choose today is different than what I may have chosen on another day when “driving-to-be-perfect” was in the driver’s seat of my life.  Because, today, there is little need to drive to be perfect… because I have arrived… and it is perfect.  Perfect in its imperfection.


Am I Listening?

A while back, someone said to me, “Wow, Vince, you’re such a good listener!”  It made me wonder what it’s like to be a bad listener!  So, I ...