In this season of “peace on earth, good will toward men,” I challenge each of you to take a few minutes to reflect on that sentiment . . . Are you offering good will toward those with whom you interact? In the last few years, it seems we as a society have been careening down the slippery slope of tolerating incivility, becoming numb to behavior we would have previously considered inappropriate. How can you as a leader model good will within your organization and community?
Acknowledge that a different perspective is not a character flaw.
A growing body of research has shown that diverse perspectives result in better decisions, enhanced innovation, and better financial performance. And yet, it has become commonplace for people who see things differently to be attacked personally and/or identified as either “for us” or “against us” (whoever “us” might be). There is immense pressure to “pick a side” and yet, if you are to be a leader, it is your job to influence a full continuum of people — which you can’t do if you are drawing a circle that leaves a significant portion of people on the outside. Good people can see things differently, and leaders can disagree without being disagreeable.
View a willingness to change one’s opinion as a strength, not a weakness.
New information and experiences may prompt an individual to course correct and/or change their position on a particular topic. It is interesting that we think it is a good thing if we can persuade others to take up our perspective, and yet we can be especially critical of someone who, upon considering additional factors, switches to a position that differs from our own. Too often, we find it easier to question their credibility and motives than to try to understand their new-found perspective. Maybe the person isn’t a “flip-flopper” but rather someone who has enough humility to know that wisdom evolves over time and thus is willing to adapt their thinking. As a leader, are you confident enough to 1) change your perspective when the situation warrants and 2) remain curious rather than condemning when someone else changes theirs?
Recognize that kindness is a reflection of the person offering it, not a response to be earned by the recipient.
This is really at the heart of “good will toward man.” Kindness is about you, not them. Are you considerate, even when you don’t have to be? Do you behave in a respectful manner, even if the person you are interacting with is rude or angry? Yes, set limits. Absolutely make the hard decisions . . . and then be kinder than you have to be in carrying them out. Kindness is contagious. So is behaving like an unruly 12-year-old. Most people will step up or down to the bar you set for them. Where is your bar?
Are you contributing to, or detracting from, a season of good will?