Real Conversations at the Heart of the Matter

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Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for the truth. – Benjamin Disraeli

 

“When is the last time that you had a great conversation? A conversation which wasn’t just two intersecting monologues, which is what passes for conversations in this culture. When have you had a great conversation in which you overheard yourself saying things that you never knew you knew, that you heard yourself receiving from somebody words that absolutely found places within you that you had thought you had lost and a sense of an event of a conversation that brought the two of you onto a different plane and fourthly a conversation that continued to sing in your mind for weeks afterwards” These words are from a conversation with poet John ODonough during a segment of the weekly broadcast of Speaking of Faith.

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As I was listening to this conversation with the late Irish poet, I reflected on the type of conversations that I typically have with leaders in business. Our focus is often on the problems at hand. We are looking for solutions that will produce the best outcome in the shortest time possible. We might be talking about the stress the leader is feeling from having too little time and too many responsibilities. Perhaps, we are talking about a financial challenge that seems insurmountable.

What we are not talking about is the soul of the organization – the inner core that is who the organization is. This essence can readily be seen through the external circumstances and relationships the company finds. We are not talking about slowing down to understand the phenomena of the challenges we see. We are not talking about what we can be grateful for and what they can do to be in service to those whose lives we touch.

What is missing to have this type of conversation? I suppose it is about opening up my heart. Focusing my attention on the real person I am being present with. Talking with them about things that matter more than the next quarter’s financial results or shipping a product on time. For when I focus only on these factors, the qualities that make the organization great are missed.

I remembered the last time I had one of these conversations. I was with a friend who is also a client. We were having dinner together and as the evening unfolded we began to talk about what really mattered to us both. We talked about our aspirations for our lives. We talked about our frustrations and how they helped us see ourselves more clearly. We let the spirit of the hawk take us to new heights. I remember that this conversation stayed with me for many days.

As I write this, I wonder why I don’t walk to this place more often. Why do I stay in the familiar territory of facts and actions and not the let the drum beat of my soul arise to meet all the other souls that want to join it in conversation.

Something to reflect upon.

Until later.

A different view of the Governor Spitzer situation

“A little integrity is better than any career” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I had just exited a meeting with a client in New York state when I was offered the breaking news that the governor was implicated in a prostitution scandal.

My first reaction was, “this is surely a joke, right?” When it was clear the news was authentic, the impact flooded over me. Here is a man, who had created a public reputation as someone who rooted out corrupt public and private officials.
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His prosecutions were often very public and left a bitter taste with those in leadership positions in particular the financial community in New York City. There were reports yesterday afternoon that there were cheers of happiness by traders on the floors of some of the exchanges when the news of the governor’s downfall was released.
I understand how people who have felt persecuted by someone may want them to feel some of the fear and pain they and their colleagues felt. Yet, how is this useful?

I believe that this is a time for introsection. I embarked upon a reflection on all the times where I have acted out of integrity with those who have trusted me. How must they have felt? In the midst of those experiences, I sometimes did not understand the consequence to them. I was more focused on my own feelings of embarrassment and shame. Watching the expression on the face of Governor’s Spitzer wife filled me with a sense of pain and bewilderment that others may have felt when they experienced the sense of betrayed by me. This feeling of devastation is sobering and continues to fuel my commitment to authenticity.

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The other reflection I have been engaged in is feeling compassion. This man operated in a way that was clearly inconsistent with the way he wanted to live. Why did he act out this way? For sure, I can never know why anyone does something. On the other hand, I can be sure that conflicts waged inside him that guided him to act in a way that he would never want to be public. I can remember the many times when I have acted and wanted others to “keep it quiet”. I am reminded that the true standard for my behavior is that I will be comfortable to have anything I do be reported on the front page of the New York Times. For those times in my past, when I have not wanted to operate with this level of transparency, I feel my own pain and can identify with Governor Spitzer and see that he and I are humans learning the consequences of our living with two standards.

My invitation to each of you is to reflect on what lessons this situation holds for you. What sense of compassion can you extend to this man at this time?

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