Sunday, February 1, 2009

People in Your Foxhole

Over the past few months I have had an opportunity to meet some fascinating people who have taught me a great deal. We have formed kind of a coalition to change the world and how we do things.

We call it Nemawashi- or building a new foundation. We have decided to take on some pretty interesting "truths"- like what defines leadership, loyalty, commitment, and a few other terms that seem to inspire a lot of discussion.

One of our group shares some great military metaphors- one of the best is the concept of "who has your six". At it's most basic the concept means covering each others back, especially your blind spot. The deeper meaning is a commitment to each other and something more than you. I think based on the information I see about engagement people want and need that. He also had a great metaphor about "Pete" the painter. As a leader your job is provide context and direction and to remember that each "canvas" requires a different brush.

Another colleague is trying to help organizations understand the importance of congruency and shared values in inviting people to join your organization. Why are we so cavalier about this and then so surprised when we don't get the results we are after.

Yet another colleague and I are trying to help people recognize that there is a natural symmetry to certain concepts that we tend to overlook- kindness and excellence. Respect and performance that meets our expectations. Clear expectations and feedback and trust. These things all go together.

We are also doing some work with definitions. It is interesting how social norms determine "truths". I saw two different editorials this weekend that were interesting to me regarding President Obama's speech. One said that President Obama was not being appropriately inclusive when he said "God bless America". I wonder if he meant to exclude the Buddha, Allah, or others? Is it important what we call our God, or just that we are willing to acknowledge the presence of a higher power?

The other person took umbrage that President Obama has been overly apologetic to the Islamic community and didn't include consideration for the actions taken in Serbia and other places during past administrations or the fact that we don't see public demonstrations against Muslims on the anniversary of September 11. I am probably too simplistic, I don't see what happened on September 11 as the actions of Muslims, but rather of terrorists. I think Timothy McVeigh considered himself a "Christian" didn't he? I thought the President was reaching out to rebuild trust.

What I share with these folks and others is a sense of engagement. These are some of the people I have in my "foxhole", those who have my "six" as I have theirs. Who have you invited to your foxhole?

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