Not the usual suspects

As I mentioned in this week’s reading round-up, I am completely enamored right now with the book Appreciative Leadership. I recognize that some view my tendency to skew positive as a leader as a shortcoming, and what I most value about this book is that it takes that it’s giving me great ideas to take that positive skew and convert it into positive power.

Last week I was reading the chapter entitled “The Genius of Inclusion,” which has sections on improbable pairs and and a section encouraging us to reach out to the “Other” as an act of inclusion. The take-home message from these sections centers around the importance of truly listening to someone who is different from us; it helps us learn what we have in common with people (which may not be at all obvious on first pass) and it also helps us to build trust and foster respect. The authors encourage the fostering of improbable pairs within our teams, in which team members choose a partner whom they believe to be greatly different from them and then do a 20-30 minute appreciative interview.

Let’s extend that idea of the improbable pair further out of our comfort zone since used within a team there’s at least one thing we have in common with the other person.  What about the Other, as the authors refer to it? We all have an Other- a person or group of people whom we like or don’t trust.  American politics this year has proven just how relevant this idea of Other has become, particularly in the face of a lack of willingness to listen to ANY opposing viewpoints (which, for the record, is behavior I’ve seen at both ends of the political spectrum).

So, an exercise for you this week, friends, that I’ll admit I straight up stole about half of from the book.

  • Who are your Others? How did you learn to see them this way?  We all have them, and if you say you don’t, you’re not being honest with yourself or others.
  • What might you be missing out on by excluding them?
  • How can you reach out to an Other to learn about them? I bet you know at least one whom you can have a conversation with, and whom you might even be able to build a bridge with.  Go do that.

I know this isn’t an easy exercise, and that in some ways it’s downright scary because it challenges a core belief about your Other. But what do you have to lose? And think of what all you have to gain if you discover that while your Other is quite different from you and you have common ground with them.  You might just change your life and theirs.