Leadership Limerick: Be Sensitive to Climate Change

Every Monday, I offer a leadership limerick, highlighting an idea or strategy about effective leadership in limerick form. Searching for leadership limerick will identify previous posts.

In San Francisco, August is quite cool
Which in Texas would not be the rule

The climate that is the norm
Doesn’t come in the same form

Assuming such makes you a fool 

Life might be so much easier if everyone's experience mirrored your own, but it would be so much less interesting.  As Seth Godin noted in a recent blog post, "Discernment is the hardest part of marketing--seeing the world as it is, instead of how you experience it." I suggest that's accurate for more than marketers.  Despite the fact that sameness seems to be spreading globally (you can get your Subway foot-long in more countries than you might imagine), tremendous diversity and difference still exists.  This is as true between countries or cities as it is among various departments within the same organization.

Connection, community, and conversation require people to perceive a safe climate for their contributions. The definition of safety will vary for individuals, and is not a permanent state we can create once and then never attend to again.  Just as our outdoor climate changes during the day or depending on your location, so does our "indoor climate" (within our own homes, relationships, and organizations) change regularly.  Safety may have to be refreshed or recreated based on the current conditions and how individuals are experiencing them.

And if we want to truly connect with other individuals, we need to listen to their story as they present it, not try to impose our narrative on their reality or make their uniqueness fit within our pre-conceived boundaries of "normal."  This can be incredibly difficult as our brains seem almost hardwired to translate what others describe as their genuine experience into something similar from our own frame of reference "Oh, that's just like ... "

We need to resist the temptation to respond to others that way.  Their experience is most like … their experience.  It stands on its own, full of meaning and value.  Making it anything other than that risks marginalizing both the experience and the individual who claims it.